David Michael Jones was born on November 1, 1895, at Brockley in Kent, England. He was the son of James Jones, by trade a printer's manager, and Alice Ann Bradshaw, whose father was a mast and block maker in Surrey. An accomplished sketch artist in her own right, Jones' mother was one of the first to encourage the boy's emerging artistic interests. His childhood was spent sketching animals and illustations from boys' magazines and Old Royal Academy catalogues. Some of these sketches, most notably the "Dancing Bear" of 1902, attracted the public's attention,and he began to exhibit some of his drawings with the Royal Drawing Society. In 1909, at the age of sixteen, he enrolled at the Camberwell Art School.
At the Camberwell Art School, under the direction of teachers A.S. Hartrick and Reginald Savage, Jones was weaned from his dependence upon magazine and catalogues for inspiration and introduced to more modern, innovative trends in art. Hartrick, who had studied in Paris, painting portraits of Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh and actually passing a summer at Pont-Aven with Gaugin, accquainted Jones with the methodology of these painters. Savage taught him about the Pre-Raphaelite painters and illustrators, such as Beardsley and de Monvel. And although during this time Jones insisted upon his intent to become either a painter of Welsh history, or an animal illustrator, the heavy weight such figures had on the world of art perplexed him enough to become "completely muddle-headed as to the function of the arts in general." The outbreak of World War I prevented him from coming to any clear conclusions at that time.
In January, 1915, he enlisted with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, with whom he was sent to the Western Front from 1915-1918. After his demobilization at the end of that period, he once more received a grant to study art at the Westminister School of Art, where teachers Bernard Meninsky and Walter Bayes sharpened the skills that had suffered somewhat in the years in the trenches and indulged him in his enthusiasms for English landscape water-colorings and the artwork of William Blake. But he soon came to realize that he could no longer come to terms with his wartime experiences in an art school environment. In 1921, his restless searching for answers led him to two events that would forever change the direction of his life and art. First, he turned away from his native Protestantism and was received in the Roman Catholic Church. And, during a trip into Sussex with a friend, he was introduced to engraver/sculptor Eric Gill, who had established, at Ditchling, the Guild of St. Joseph and St. Dominic, where artists could be "a company of craftsmen living by their work and earning such reputation as they had by the quality of their goods." Gill's clear-cut ideas about the nature of art impressed the young, wearily-questioning Jones, and in 1922, he decided to leave London and join Gill at Ditchling.
After an abortive attempt at the carpentry trade, Jones learned wood and copper engraving under the tutelage of Desmond Chute, while in close contact with Gill. He started producing the illustrations for books like those from which he first learned the art of drawing, including Golden Cockerel's editons of Guilliver's Travels and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In the coming years, he would illustrate several poems published by Faber press, including T.S. Eliot's The Cultivation of Christmas Trees. The last years of the 1920's were migatory ones for Jones, who for the first time since the War left the stability of formal training or guild life and wandered around Great Britain, going from visits to the Gills to his parents to Benedictine monesteries and back again. And although Eric Gill remained a strong sounding board for Jones' artistic ideas, it was the first time Jones took full charge of the path of his artistic development, and he began to mature through watercolors, the medium towards which he drifted during this period, and to which he largely adhered for the rest of his life.
At the end of this period, Jones was elected to become one of the members of the Seven and Five Society, a society of relatively traditional watercolorists and painters headed by Ben Nicholson, which included Christopher Wood and Ivon Hitchens among its ranks. As a member, his work began to be exhibited in collections at the Goupil Gallery, at the International Exhibition in Venice, and at the World's Fair in New York. It was also around this time that Jones began to work upon what would, in 1937, be published as his first book of poetry, In Parenthesis. The Anathemata followed in 1952. Jones died in 1974.