About me

Maria Pia Luly Jones

Maria Pia Luly Jones

The first time I met her, Maria Pia Luly Jones came towards me offering an exquisitely scented posy. A gesture from times gone-by, a bouquet that gathered all the flowers which Maria Pia loves: little wild roses and bellflowers, orange blossom, bouvardie, freesias and columbines, wild flowers and flowers that grow in the gardens of Bordighera.

A very young Maria Pia, her artistic studies just finished, newly married and living in Monaco, begins her professional career in Nice with a company specialised in drawings for fabrics. The choice naturally falls on flowers. Maria Pia creates floral subjects with freshness of style, vibrant in colours and full of light: joyful golden ear of corn garlands chase themselves in blue skies, small bunches of wild flowers stand out on a sunny background, roses are the stars of the situation lit by the blue of the gentians. In these drawings there is all the happiness of a person who has absorbed all the Midi`s nature and light: it comes spontaneously to think of the same roses, and the same flowers that another lover of the Riviera , Raoul Dufry, used to create in the Twenties and Thirties for Bianchini - Ferier.

After a long pause in her creative activities -- care of family loved-ones, thoughts on the subject of her interests, studies on her favourite topics -- the desire to go back to her painting and to once more lay colour on paper re-explodes. The occasion arises in a long journey to Crete, another country blessed by the sun: the first subject is represented by the Onosma erectum, a plant native to the island, of which she portrays with elegance the yellow velvet-like flower and its leaves with their characteristic long rigid hair. Since then she is like a fast-flowing river.

Maria Pia would never stop painting as if she were trying to make up for the long years of silence. She paints with passion, almost rage, except that this last word is in complete contradiction with her particularly gentle and reserved  nature. Her choices are not programmed but are inspired : she is attracted by simple wild flowers such as Bryonia cretica with its elegant spirals, myosotis and bellflowers, columbines and daffodils, drawn on paper with an excellent feeling for the lay-out.

She is also attracted by tulips, sometimes so simple and elegant and other times  so peculiar and jagged. Of the tulip she likes the long thick coriaceous dark green leaves that she paints with a long and confident stroke of the brush. Then there are  roses, many of them: some modest and some superb, the red one which offers itself as if it were a declaration of love " L`attesa " and the one with delicate petals which barely need to be touched to smell its scent.

What is striking about this painter is her absolute sense of humility, a price-less virtue, towards the great botanical illustration of the past. From such an approach have their beginnings the works which she calls "tribute" inspired or dictated by the affection which she has for the works of the maestri about which she has meditated for a long time: the peony and the ipomea in homage to Redoute, the vase with the muscaris bulbs and the one with the primroses, a clear reference to Georg Ehret, the chaste violets which associate her to a more recent and much loved maestro, the Australian Paul Jones.

But it would not be possible to understand Maria Pia Luly Jones`s choices if we don`t think of the environmental and cultural surroundings in which she lives and works : that very much loved Bordighera, full of blinding colours, a real challenge for Claude Monet, that since the beginning of the eighteenth century has drawn lots of curious and cultural travellers coming mainly from Great Britain: the successors of the Grand Tour.

" During these days" we can read in a guide published in 1931 At the Western Gate of Italy and up to fifty or so years ago, wild flowers were copiously growing in Bordighera, fields and woods of olive trees were not closed, anemones, violets, narcissus, tulips and gladiolus were freely growing nearby the first villas and hotels. This seems to be one of the major attractions of this location to the first English people who took-up residence here and initiated the fortunes of Bordighera as a tourist centre. The authors of the Guide are Edward and Margaret Berry, grandchildren and spiritual heirs of a key personality in the history of this town, Clarence Bicknell who once arrived in Bordighera in 1878 never left.

While  a few kilometres away the Hanbury family created the gardens at Mortola attracting visitors from all over Europe, Clarence Bicknell, a clergyman, but also a mathematician, botanist, archaeologist, discoverer of the rock carvings on Mount Bego, donates to Bordighera his immense cultural wealth, creating the museum which bears his name. Here, in a way protected by the shade of the giant Ficus magnoloides that he had acclimatised, are kept in custody the results of his discoveries and research, the books, the butterfly collection, the herbariums, and the hundreds of watercolours of wild flowers.

It is in this atmosphere full of elegance and culture that Maria Pia Luly Jones paints. Here in this magnificent frame-work of the museum embraced by the wisteria, the circle is closed, the connection with the past is renewed, because it is not by chance that Maria Pia has chosen the Bicknell Museum for her first exhibition, in honour of the botanist who for years collected and drew flowers in the  valleys near to Bordighera.

To her, related to Bicknell by the same passion for wild flowers, who is about to begin a new activity as a botanical watercolour teacher again not by chance at Casterino, in Val Fontanalba, the beloved summer home of Bicknell and the  point of departure for his explorations, go all our wishes: may the link with an illustrious past provide the strength and incentive for new aims.


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Quando ho conosciuto Maria Pia, mi è venuto subito in mente il lavoro di Imogen Cunningham e le sue fotografie di botanica, rigorose, esatte. Ma le somiglianze finiscono qui. Gli acquerelli di Maria colpiscono per la loro originalità, il rigore che comunicano, frutto di lunghe ore passate per creare, o meglio, ricreare un giardino privato, uno Shangri-La rigoglioso, un caleidoscopico luogo per tutti i veri appassionati di bellezza, e a chi ha, come recita il suo sito, un’inguaribile ”passion for flowers”..

Max Mencarelli (Fotografo)