Jonathan Jones (journalist)

Jonathan Jones is a British art critic who has written for The Guardian since 1999. He has appeared in the BBC television series Private Life of a Masterpiece and in 2009[1] was a judge for the Turner Prize. He has also been a judge for the BP Portrait Award.

Jonathan Jones
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
OccupationArt critic, The Guardian
Children1 daughter

Early lifeEdit

Jones was born in Wales,[2] and brought up in North Wales. Both his parents were school teachers and the family visited Italy in the summer holidays which kindled his interest in art. He studied history at the University of Cambridge and, at one time, wanted to be a professional historian. Jones developed an interest in modern art while living in the United States, where his wife was an academic at Brown University. On his return to the United Kingdom he wrote freelance for magazines and art features for The Guardian.[3]


On Mark LeckeyEdit

Jones had a public feud with artist Mark Leckey, who won the Turner Prize in 2008. By 2011, Whitehot Magazine referred to "the ongoing 3-year battle" between the two.[4] Later that year, Jones gave a highly negative review to Leckey's exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, describing it as being "full of lumbering inanities".[5] The review provoked strong responses in art circles and many comments on The Guardian's webpage, including replies from Jones, forcing Jones on to the defensive in the reader comments section time and time again. Jones held to his position that the exhibition was just bad, and his review simply an honest reaction, replying to one reader that he had used "invective because – let's face it – if you really do feel dislike, you may as well exploit the entertainment value of that rage. In other words – bad reviews can be bloody good fun to read", adding "So here is where I am really coming from... I believe ninety-five percent of the British contemporary art that is endlessly promoted by galleries, museums and the media is worthless" and, probably tongue-in-cheek, "Artblogging, it's the new rock n roll".[5] Writing in, Isobel Harbison called the review part of a "trend in broadsheet art criticism of opinion-mongering and reader-goading."[6]

On Grayson PerryEdit

Jones has also engaged in a long-running feud with the potter Grayson Perry, which began in 2001 with his review of the exhibition New Labour at the Saatchi Gallery, entitled "If I had a hammer...", assumedly in reference to Perry's work. The review of the group show opens with 3 paragraphs deriding Perry's pottery, recommending "Smash them and bury the pieces". Later, he states outright that Perry is "a terrible artist". [7] The feud might have shown signs of ending in an article published in December 2009, in which Jones details his regrets as an art critic in an act of "seasonal goodwill". In the piece, he admits that "later I found a lot to admire in aspects of his [Perry's] work".[8] In 2012, while taking issue with a tweet Perry sent about Leonardo da Vinci, Jones does acknowledge that he "says a lot of interesting things".[9] However, in a 2013 article, entitled "Grayson Perry: a master of rabble-rousing and little else", Jones doubles down on his opinions of Perry, calling him a "fifth rate potter", and "a pundit whose punditry is underwritten by a spurious claim to be a serious artist".[10] In 2015, Jones reviewed Perry's show at the Turner Contemporary, Margate, with the title quote "Like being trapped in a room full of trendy folk talking bollocks", giving the show two stars, concluding that the work is "art for those who need to be told what they are looking at and why it matters".[11]

In 2016, Perry quoted Jones' comment "Suburban popular culture" on a sketch for a vase proposed for a show at the Serpentine Gallery, misspelling Jones' name as "Johnathan" in the process (it is unclear whether this is deliberate). Jones responded to this in an article entitled "Quote me on this, Grayson: you're not a true artist at all", in which he declares himself "no snob", extensively quotes his earlier critiques of Perry's works, and refers to the quotation as "snarky, obvious, holier-than-thou satire". In this article, he also references a "Be Nice to Grayson period" during which Jones "really, really tried to see the best in him [Perry]" (while dates aren't specified, this is assumedly the 2009-2012 period discussed above). The article concludes with similarly strong language, and a challenge: "Grayson Perry is what happens when art becomes a pseudo intellectual entertainment for a world that is too busy to look and too distracted to feel: an artist for people who can’t be bothered with art. Now put that on a pot."[12]

On photographyEdit

Jones has expressed varying opinions on photography. In January 2013 he wrote that "Photography is the serious art of our time" and the only art that devotes the same "attention to the stuff that matters" as great artists of the past.[13] In December 2014, however, prompted by the high price paid for a print by the photographer Peter Lik, Jones started a column by declaring that "Photography is not an art", and went on to say that, "this hollow and overblown creation exposes the illusion that lures us all, when we're having a good day with a good camera – the fantasy that taking a picture is the same thing as making a work of art."[14]

On WikipediaEdit

In February 2014, in discussing a Wikipedia project to increase articles on women in the arts, Jones wrote that Wikipedia "is a corrupting force" that is "eroding the world's intellect" through a relativist approach to knowledge.[15]

On Terry PratchettEdit

In August 2015, shortly after the death of Terry Pratchett, Jones wrote an article titled "Get real. Terry Pratchett is not a literary genius", criticising Pratchett's books as "ordinary potboilers" not worth the time to read.[16] The piece attracted criticism including a response by Sam Jordison on The Guardian's book blog, which defended Pratchett's work and criticised Jones for commenting on books despite admitting that he had not read them.[17] Jones wrote a follow-up piece after reading Small Gods, in which he referred to his initial column as his "most shameful moment as a critic". He praised some of the book's wit and entertainment value, but still found that its prose and characters fell short of what he considered literary fiction.[18]


  • The lost battles: Leonardo, Michelangelo and the artistic duel that defined the Renaissance. Knopf, 2012. ISBN 0307594750[19]
  • The loves of the artists: Art and passion in the Renaissance. Simon & Schuster, 2013. ISBN 0857203207[20]
  • Sensations: The Story of British Art from Hogarth to Banksy. Laurence King Publishing, 2019. ISBN 9781786272973[21]

Personal lifeEdit

Jones is married, with one daughter, and lives in London.[2]


  1. ^ Turner Prize: whale skull and pile of dust among artworks on display, The Telegraph, by 5 October 2009. Retrieved 24 February 2014. Archived here.
  2. ^ a b "Jonathan Jones - Penguin Random House". Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  3. ^ Interview: Jonathan Jones on Guardian Art & The Loves of the Artists by Noah Charney, blouinartinfo, 23 May 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2014. Archived here.
  4. ^ May 2011, Mark Leckey @ Serpentine Gallery by Sophie Risner, Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art, 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2014. Archived here.
  5. ^ a b Mark Leckey's art creates noise without meaning by Jonathan Jones in The Guardian, 23 May 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2014. Archived here.
  6. ^ Jonathan Jones on Mark Leckey by Isobel Harbison, frieze, 27 May 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2016. Archived here.
  7. ^ Jonathan Jones, If I had a hammer..., The Guardian, 5 May 2001. Retrieved 15 Sep 2019.
  8. ^ Jonathan Jones,Regrets as a critic? I have a few, The Guardian, 18 Dec 2009. Retrieved 15 Sep 2019.
  9. ^ Jonathan Jones, Hold that tweet! Artists should stick to the day job, The Guardian, 23 May 2012. Retrieved 15 Sep 2019.
  10. ^ Jonathan Jones,Grayson Perry: a master of rabble-rousing and little else, The Guardian, 09 Oct 2013. Retrieved 15 Sep 2019.
  11. ^ Jonathan Jones,Grayson Perry review – 'Like being trapped in a room full of trendy folk talking bollocks', The Guardian, 22 May 2015. Retrieved 15 Sep 2019.
  12. ^ Jonathan Jones,Quote me on this, Grayson: you're not a true artist at all, The Guardian, 10 Oct 2016. Retrieved 15 Sep 2019.
  13. ^ Jonathan Jones, "Photography is the art of our time", The Guardian, 10 January 2013.
  14. ^ Jonathan Jones, "The m canyon: it's the most expensive photograph ever – but it's like a hackneyed poster in a posh hotel", The Guardian, 10 December 2014.
  15. ^ Is Wikipedia the best place to promote women in art? by Jonathan Jones in The Guardian, 20 February 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2014. Archived here.
  16. ^ Jones, Jonathan (31 August 2015). "Get real. Terry Pratchett is not a literary genius". The Guardian.
  17. ^ Jordison, Sam (31 August 2015). "Terry Pratchett's books are the opposite of 'ordinary potboilers'". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  18. ^ Jones, Jonathan (11 September 2015). "I've read Pratchett now: it's more entertainment than art". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  19. ^ "The Lost Battles". Penguin Random House. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  20. ^ "The Loves of The Artists". Simon & Schuster. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  21. ^ "Sensations: The Story of British Art from Hogarth to Banksy". Laurence King Publishing. Retrieved 10 April 2019.

External linksEdit