Around 1900, probably whilst gardening at Great Ote Hall in Sussex, Charles Henry Jones (1866-1959) created an incredible body of work, presumably for his own benefit as it lay undiscovered until 1981 when writer and curator Sean Sexton purchased, in a market, a chest containing a huge collection of albums and images. Some of these are now in the V&A’s collection in London, including an album with pages of beautiful small prints - presumably hand-made by Jones - of pears: No less than 45 different varieties of pear were photographed and collated in grids spanning five separate pages with 9 prints on each page, a format that pre-dates the work of the Bechers by several decades and serves as a reminder of not just how fruit was home-grown in previous days, but also the sheer number of varieties that were grown.

Nowadays, we are largely restricted to what the supermarkets stock, albeit with year-round, out-of-season availability imported from sunnier climes. Typically, however, this amounts to just a few varieties (Conference being the most common), not all of which are stocked for their flavour, but shelf-life and transportability seemingly being more important factors.

This ongoing series not only pays homage to Jones (with a debt of gratitude, too, to Sexton), but also reminds us how fruit was grown in the past and how many varieties there actually are (even Jones’s collection being just the tip of the iceberg) which today’s 'supply chain' ignores.

The black and white portraits of supermarket pears (digitally shot) are contrasted with colour portraits (shot on 'traditional' medium-format colour film) of ancient espalliered pear trees, in 2019 - first in blossom and then in fruit - located in the old walled kitchen garden at Great Ote Hall (by kind permission of Carola Godman Irvine).

The work here formed part of the exhibition Permanent Global Summertime within the Frequencies collective group show, SPECTRA , at The Roper Gallery, Bath Artists' Studios, October 2021.

Installation pictures from SPECTRA can be viewed HERE

Follow this link for the writing that accompanied the show (pdf file, opens in a new window) [Link]

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