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Born 4 December 1802 at Verandah, Swansea, Glamorganshire, son of Calvert Richard Jones. He was the third of his family to bear the name. His grandfather inherited part of the estate of ‘the Herberts of Swansea’ in the 18th c. He and his father (1766 - 1847) were prominent citizens of Swansea and benefactors of the town. He was educated at Eton, and Oriel College, Oxford, where he graduated first class in mathematics. After his ordained as a priest he held the livings of Loughor and Roath (Cardiff) for a period, but he spent much of his time travelling in Europe or pursuing his interests in art and music. At Oxford he was a fellow-student of Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, heir to the vast estates of Margam and Penrice, and they were close lifelong friends. Through the Talbot family of Penrice he came to know very early of the discoveries of their cousin William Henry Fox Talbot of Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, the inventor of the positive-negative method of making a photograph. Because of the practical problems associated with Talbot's process he first took to the daguerrotype process and completely mastered it by 1841. During the 1840s he collaborated with Talbot and with Frenchmen such as Hippolyte Bayard, and he was an important link between pioneers in France and England. By 1846 he had turned to Talbot's calotype process. His most well-known works are the calotype photographs he took at the end of the 1840s on the island of Malta, in Italy and around Britain, sending negatives to Talbot to have them printed and sold.
He inherited the Heathfield estate, Swansea, in 1847, and built streets which are now in the centre of the city, naming one Mansel Street in memory of his half-brother and another Portia Street in memory of his second wife. He left Swansea in 1853 to live for a time in Brussels before settling in Bath, where he died 7 November 1877. He was buried in the family chapel in St. Mary's Church, Swansea, but all was destroyed during World War II. He had one daughter of the first marriage and two of the second.
Before becoming a photographer Calvert Jones had shown that he was a skilful artist and his watercolours show a strong feeling for colour and form. He took a great interest in the sea and maritime objects, ships being his favourite subject for his paintings and photographs. He composed his pictures carefully but was venturesome and he considered his photographic work to be an artistic product. It was not until a century after his death that the clarity of his vision was recognised and he was acknowledged to be one of the most important pioneers of photography.
There are collections of his work in London at the National Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Musuem and the National Maritime Museum, and in Wales at the National Library, Aberystwyth, and at the Glynn Vivian Gallery and in the collection of the Royal Institution, Swansea. His letters to Fox Talbot are in the Lacock Abbey collection.
Published date: 2001
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