Born in Newlyn on 5 February 1886, and married to Albert Owen Jewels who died in WWI, Mary Jewels preferred to be known as a natural painter rather than primitive or naïve. She mainly painted in oils, her subjects being landscapes, portraits, fishing and harbour scenes. She was a close friend of Dod PROCTER, and her sister, Cordelia was married to the sculptor Frank DOBSON. Her subjects remained truly Cornish, as she did not travel further afield.
Never having any formal training, Jewels's introduction to painting came in 1915 when she was given a blank canvas and paints by Cedric MORRIS and told to "cover it by evening". She considered herself to be a Newlyn painter, though little interest was shown in her work and St Ives was more welcoming, she first exhibited in London in 1928, persuaded to do so by Augustus JOHN who was a family friend.
Whybrow comments 'Mary was involved with both the early and later Newlyn school of painters. She lived so long that she spanned the generations. John WELLS, on looking at her painting Cornfields with Peasants, dubbed her the English Van Gogh.' Reviewers continue to remark that she had interesting talents although has been largely overlooked amongst those who continue to focus on Alfred WALLIS as 'the naïve' treasure. It has been suggested by Canney, in his Newlyn Notebook, that at her best, Jewels may well have influenced Christopher WOOD of whom both she and her sister 'Delia' were very fond.
A Solo exhibition of her work was held in Newlyn 1977, the same year in which she died.
Painter of Cornish subjects and primitive pieces
works and access
Works include: The Lady of Shallot; The Fisherman's Virgin; Mousehole II; Resurrection and Cornubia
London 1928 (her first)
NAG, including Solo exhibition in 1977
Tate, London St Ives 1939-64 Exhibition;
Cornwall County Council's Centennial Show A Century of Art in Cornwall 1889-1989
Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall 1949-52
Bowness (1958) 'Mary Jewels and naive painting' Painter and Sculptor Autumn (vol 1, no3)
Ruhrmund (1976) 'Arts and crafts in Cornwall, Mary Jewels' Cornish Life (vol 3)
Val Baker (1984) 'Primitive visions' Country Life 16 Aug
Hardie (1995) 100 Years in Newlyn: Diary of a Gallery (photo likeness);
(2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall (Col pl: Mousehole)
Tate (1985) St Ives 1939-64: 25 Years of Painting, Sculpture & Pottery (Exhibition catalgoue; biog notes p127, photo c1917)
Whybrow (1999) The Innocent Eye (illus, likeness)
Whybrow (1994) St Ives