• The remarkable story of the discovery of Charles Jones’s long-forgotten photographs – found in a leather trunk in the early morning at Bermondsey Market in 1981, is the stuff of art collecting legend. It is every collector’s dream to rediscover a forgotten masterpiece and Sean Sexton was particularly fortunate that a fellow collector-dealer had seen the contents of the trunk earlier that morning and decided to pass. 

    Sean was able to purchase the trunk and its contents of around 500 photographs for a nominal sum, and so the rediscovery of Charles Jones, plantsman, gardener and photographer, began.

  • Charles Jones (1866 – 1959) trained as a gardener, spending a significant portion of his working life at Ote Hall...

    Charles Jones (1866 – 1959) trained as a gardener, spending a significant portion of his working life at Ote Hall near Burgess Hill in Sussex.

  • His work there was reported in the The Gardeners’ Chronicle on September 20th, 1905 : “The present gardener, Charles Jones, has had a large share in the modelling of the gardens as they now appear, for on all sides can be seen evidences of his work in the making of flowerbeds and borders and the planting of fruit trees etc… Pleasing as are these decorative portions of the garden, the fruit and vegetables quarters are equally so and this especially applies to the fruit gardens.”

     

  • It is believed that Jones took most of his photographs whilst working at Ote Hall as some of his photographs of the borders referred to in the Gardeners' Chronicle survive. He left Ote Hill around the time of the article and the rest of his life remains something of a mystery.

     

    Jones died in Lincolnshire in 1959 at the age of 92 and would have almost certainly passed into obscurity were it not for Sean Sexton’s discovery. The leather trunk contained a group of gold toned silver gelatin prints, mostly of vegetables, fruits and flowers, each one carefully inscribed with its variety in pencil on the reverse and initialled CJ.

  • The extraordinary beauty of each Charles Jones print rests in the intensity of focus on the subject and the almost...

    The extraordinary beauty of each Charles Jones print rests in the intensity of focus on the subject and the almost portrait-like respect with which each specimen is treated. There have been suggestions that Jones was a proto-Modernist in his approach as it is clear that he isolated each of his subjects deliberately in-front of a neutral cloth back-drop that he placed outside.

    • Charles Jones, Beans in a Basket, c.1900
      Charles Jones, Beans in a Basket, c.1900
    • Charles Jones, Cabbage Lettuce, c.1900
      Charles Jones, Cabbage Lettuce, c.1900
    • Charles Jones, Cabbage, Flower of Spring, c.1900
      Charles Jones, Cabbage, Flower of Spring, c.1900
  • The lack of shadows are equally distinctive and it seems likely that the photographs were taken on bright sunless days. The transformation of an earthy root vegetable into an abstracted orb is magical and perhaps could only have been undertaken by someone who appreciated and understood the creation of the specimen as much as that of the photographs, which were developed from glass-plate negatives through the use of sunlight to allow the gold-toned images to appear out of the paper.

  • Charles Jones, Peas, c.1900

    Charles Jones

    Peas, c.1900 Unique gold toned silver gelatin on printing out paper
    Paper Size: 25 x 19.5 cm
  • A large group of Charles Jones’s photographs are to be at the centre of a major exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery that was planned to open very shortly but has, sadly, been postponed until the later part of this year. Unearthed: Photography’s Roots will be the first major photography exhibition to be held at the gallery, which holds a significant group of still life paintings. The exhibition will follow the thread of still life as a subject in photography from its earliest days and Charles Jones’s prints will have a gallery of their own. We have timed this Viewing Room to coincide with the intended opening of the exhibition.

  • AVAILABLE WORKS

    • Charles Jones, Broccoli, c.1900
      Charles Jones, Broccoli, c.1900
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    • Charles Jones, Onion Ailsa Craig, c.1900
      Charles Jones, Onion Ailsa Craig, c.1900
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    • Charles Jones, Beet, Globe, c.1900
      Charles Jones, Beet, Globe, c.1900
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    • Charles Jones, Untitled, c.1900
      Charles Jones, Untitled, c.1900
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    • Charles Jones, Pea, Quite Content, c.1900
      Charles Jones, Pea, Quite Content, c.1900
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    • Charles Jones, Tomato, Duke of York, c.1900
      Charles Jones, Tomato, Duke of York, c.1900
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    • Charles Jones, Tulips, c.1900
      Charles Jones, Tulips, c.1900
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    • Charles Jones, Madame Lombard, c.1900
      Charles Jones, Madame Lombard, c.1900
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    • Charles Jones, Zinnia Double, c.1900
      Charles Jones, Zinnia Double, c.1900
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