Jimmy Jones, a southern Utah native who great up exploring Utah’s national parks, is considered by many to be one of the best landscape painters in the area.
“What makes his art special?" James Aton said. "Well, he knows the landscape. A number of people have told me you can really tell that he has spent a lot of time looking at this space or this place so he knows it in all of its moods. One of the things that distinguishes his artwork is his great sense of distance. He’s able to get that great sense of space here in this landscape that no one has really done quite like Jimmy.”
Aton wrote a biography on the landscape painter Jimmy Jones and said he's one of the most important artists to study for students interested in western landscape art. He met the painter Jimmy Jones in 1980 when Jones was 47. Aton believes that Jones familiarity with the local landscapes came from his childhood.
“He grew up in Cedar City, he literally grew up in the national parks," he said. "His father worked for the Utah Parks company and so he would always be taking his family to Zions’, Bryce, Grand Canyon and in fact Jimmy said his earliest memory as a child was a picnic down in the narrow section of Zion National Park. So he grew up loving the parks, he worked for the Utah Parks company like all of his siblings at the different lodges from the time he was about 14 years old. So he knew these parks inside and out and yet he never really thought about painting them until 1976 when he decided to paint his home park as a bicentennial project.”
Aton told me about his favorite Jimmy Jones piece.
“Of his last show I think that I like the cover of the book 'The Waterfall at The Temple of Sinawava' the best," Aton said. "There’s also of course his early figure and portrait work which he did for 15 years and there are a number of extraordinary paintings particularly from Mexico where he spent many of his winters that I love as well.
“Jimmy was one of the smartest, most well-read people I’ve ever met in my life," he said. "He always said that he painted so he could read. He could talk about anything; he was just incredibly well-read. He read all of the time. He also loved music and he got up every morning and played his Steinway Piano before he went into his studio to paint. He was a very early riser. And he was also probably for those who knew him the kindest, nicest person that you’d ever meet. He was actually a great painter and an even better human being.”
Before his death in 2009, Jones met with the president of Southern Utah University and donated the majority of his pieces to the Southern Utah Museum of Art, located on SUU campus. He wanted to help start a new, thriving art museum in Cedar City. Aton says this museum is inspiring future generations, both in art and southern Utah landscape, and owns nearly 50 pieces of Jones’ works. However, until recently, the museum only had 2 pieces of his work on display. The museum just added 10 more pieces from his last show.