Jonathan Jones (journalist)

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For other people with the same name, see Jonathan Jones.

Jonathan Jones is an English 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. Jones is known for his provocative and often contradictory and contrarian journalist style.

Early life[edit]

Jones was 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 Cambridge University 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 U.K., he wrote freelance for magazines and art features for The Guardian.[2]


Jones is known for his provocative journalistic style.[citation needed]

On Mark Leckey[edit]

In his review of Mark Leckey's 2011 exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery which he described as made up of "lumbering inanities". The review attracted overwhelming reader hostility, 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".[3]

Leckey had won the Turner Prize in 2008, after which he had supposedly argued with Jones, leading to what Whitehot Magazine has described as a three-year battle between the two.[4] A separate response to the review by Isobel Harbison saw it as part of a "trend in broadsheet art criticism of opinion-mongering and reader-goading."[5]

On photography[edit]

Jones has expressed contradictory opinions on photography. In January of 2013 he wrote that "Photography is the serious art of our time" because "photography relishes human life. . . . Today, photography is the only art that seriously maintains this attention [sc that attention paid by the greatest of 17th-century painters] to the stuff that matters."[6] 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.[7]

On Wikipedia[edit]

In February 2014, Jones in his blog argued that Wikipedia "is a corrupting force" that is "eroding the world's intellect", characterising the encyclopedia's processes as like the theory of the hive mind which argues that through a relativist process "a deeper collective knowledge must emerge".[8]

On Terry Pratchett[edit]

In August 2015, shortly after the death of Terry Pratchett, Jones wrote an article titled "Get real. Terry Pratchett is not a literary genius."[9] In the article Jones admits to only having briefly paged through one of Terry Pratchett's books but considers Terry Pratchett's writing as ordinary as potboilers. The piece attracted criticism including a response on the Guardian own book blog.[10] He wrote a follow up piece after having read Small Gods and praised some of the wit, but found the work rather ordinary: "it makes the book warm and friendly, like a normal chat with a normal bloke."[11]


  • The Lost Battles: Leonardo, Michelangelo and the Artistic Duel That Defined the Renaissance. Knopf, 2012. ISBN 0307594750
  • The Loves of the Artists: Art and Passion in the Renaissance. Simon & Schuster, 2013. ISBN 0857203207


  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. ^ Interview: Jonathan Jones on Guardian Art & The Loves of the Artists by Noah Charney, blouinartinfo, 23 May 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2014. Archived here.
  3. ^ Mark Leckey's art creates noise without meaning by Jonathan Jones in, 23 May 2011. Retrieved 24 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. ^ Jonathan Jones on Mark Leckey by Isobel Harbison, frieze blog, 27 May 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2014. Archived here.
  6. ^ Jonathan Jones, "Photography is the art of our time", The Guardian, 10 January 2013.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Is Wikipedia the best place to promote women in art? by Jonathan Jones in, 20 February 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2014. Archived here.
  9. ^ "Get real. Terry Pratchett is not a literary genius". 
  10. ^ Jordison, Sam (31 August 2015). "Terry Pratchett's books are the opposite of 'ordinary potboilers'". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  11. ^ Jones, Jonathan (11 September 2015). "I've read Pratchett now: it's more entertainment than art". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-09-12. 

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