Harry Maude Jonas

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Harry Maude Jonas
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Died1990(1990-00-00) (aged 96–97)
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Alma materSt John's Wood Art School
  • Painter
  • Silent film actor
  • Art director

Harry Maude Jonas (1893–1990) was a British painter, silent film actor and art director, who lived and worked in London.

London life

He was educated at St. Paul's School and later studied at the St John's Wood Art School. He first took a studio in Chelsea, before moving to Brook Green where he worked alongside the painter John Armstrong[1]. He was a contemporary of Augustus John. He lived in Maple Street for a long time, in a building of studios in the Fitzroy Square area of London that has a Bohemian history associated with it. The ramshackle, war-damaged houses were still honeycombed with rickety studios which had been in occupation by successive generations of artists since the 18th century. Jonas considered himself the last of the "Fitzrovians", as he had outlived them all. These included Evelyn Waugh and Alex Waugh, Dylan Thomas, Matthew Smith, John Armstrong, and the circle of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. The area had also been lived in by Walter Sickert, John Singer Sargent and Edward Burne-Jones. He had known many of these people and had plenty of stories to tell.

That part of London went through enormous changes when the Euston road and station were redeveloped in the 1960s. It caused an enormous upheaval, many old Georgian buildings were lost, and the area was greatly changed. The Maple Street studio was right underneath the Post Office Tower and Jonas became a cause célèbre because he refused to move out. The actor Oliver Reid got involved on Jonas' behalf,[2] and eventually the developers provided him with alternative accommodation.

The gallery owner Michael Parkin called Jonas the "great romancer"; his colourful life and love of a good story meant his interests and connections were widespread. He got caught up in the Jack the Ripper conspiracy theories that were fuelled by his friend Joseph Sickert-Gorman, known as Hobo Sickert, who claimed to be the illegitimate son of Walter Sickert.


As a young man he became a successful portrait painter. His subjects were people in society and public life: Lord Beaverbrook, Iris Mountbatten, Baron Moreton, Elsa Lanchester and many other prominent people.

His work is in collections at the National Portrait Gallery,[3] Manchester City Art Gallery, St John's College at Cambridge University, the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in the Wirral.


In the 1920s Jonas became interested in the silent film industry and began working with George Pearson, of the Welsh-Pearson production company. He worked as art director on the 1923 film Love, Lies and Laughter, starring Betty Balfour, whilst also playing the male lead as The Boy.[citation needed] In 2012 a copy was found of this film in an archive in Amsterdam. This has since been restored by the British Film Institute.[4]

In 1924 Jonas was again art director on the film Reveille, now lost, which was also directed by George Pearson: a story about the forced gaiety and sense of disillusion at the end of the war in 1918.

Later life

In his later years he turned to the restoration of paintings in order to earn money, This gave him access to many old art collections and led him to make several speculative discoveries of old masters, a Leonardo da Vinci, a Holbein and even a portrait of Shakespeare, all proving to be of doubtful provenance. His contacts in the Catholic church also brought him many religious works in need of restoration.


  1. "Harry Jonas – National Portrait Gallery". www.npg.org.uk. Retrieved 2020-04-01.
  2. Goodwin, Cliff (2001). Evil Spirits: The Life of Oliver Reed. London: Virgin Publishing. ISBN 9780753505199.
  3. [1], National Portrait Gallery
  4. "Love, Life and Laughter". British Film Institute.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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