My Favourite Painting: Anna Pavord

'I feel I know that white-stuccoed house'

Penkerrig, Wales, 1772, by Thomas Jones (1742–1803), 9in by 12in, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

Anna says: ‘Like Thomas Jones, I grew up on the borders between England and Wales and, to me, it is a deeply familiar landscape, which is why I love this picture so much.

My childhood was defined by the Brecon Beacons, not the Carneddau mountains of Jones’s Penkerrig, but here are the same cloud shadows running over the hill, the same small pastures creeping up into the bracken and whin, the same scatter of trees. I feel I know that white-stuccoed house, with its sheltering plantation behind. Here is home.’
Anna Pavord is a writer and gardener. Her latest book, Landskipping, was published by Bloomsbury in January

John McEwen says: ‘Thomas Jones’s pictures mostly remained in family collections, rendering them publicly unknown until very recently

Recommended videos for you

He is famed today for small landscapes/ townscapes in oil on paper, like Penkerrig, Wales, remarkably modern in their informality. It is indicative that London’s National Gallery didn’t buy a Jones until 1995 and it was of this private kind. Jones came from landed gentry, as did his Welsh artistic master Richard Wilson. His Non-Conformist parents hoped their second son would join the Church, but, exceptionally for gentry, allowed him to train as an artist. For two years, he was a paying pupil of Wilson, his artistic hero; he worked in London painting Classical landscapes until, as artistic convention decreed, he went to Italy

After six years, a legacy from his father brought him home, along with a Danish mistress and their two daughters. Social convention and his mother’s disapproval forced him to legitimize this arrangement by marriage. The deaths of his bachelor elder brother and his mother left him rich. In 1791, he served as High Sheriff of Radnorshire.

He was described by Sir Uvedale Price Bt, a pioneer of Picturesque landscaping, as ‘a little stunted man, as round as a ball, the truest Welch runt, who was a pupil of… Wilson’s and his face as red as his master’s’. Jones’s boyhood was at Penkerrig and, after his inheritance, he settled there. This view is of Newmead Farm and Carneddau from the house. The landscape remains relatively unchanged. He wrote a poem in its praise: ‘In these sweet shades kind nature did impart/Her first choice lessons to my infant heart.’

** Read every story in our My Favourite Painting series