Emperor Jones The Story

“Emperor Jones”

 An uncirculated series of limited-edition lithographs of golfing legend Robert Tyre (Bobby) Jones, Jr.

This is a fascinating piece of the Augusta National legacy rediscovered after 40 years. It starts in 1977 with local Augusta businessman T. J. Johnson, forming a company called Southern Graphics Ltd. It was to be an art company specializing in the production and distribution of “southern culture” style original art and prints. T. J. formed a relationship with David T. S. Jones, a local artist, to produce the original art, as well as architectural and construction designs and renderings.

In 1977 David T. S. Jones received a commission from Augusta National Golf Club to paint an oil portrait of Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones, Jr. – golf’s undisputed “Champion of Champions!” His inspiration would be the 1922 photograph snapped by photographer Juan Montell capturing Bobby Jones’ perfect swing during tournament play. This now famous photograph (right) has appeared in numerous publications, including the photographer’s nephew, Frank Christian’s fine book: Augusta National & The Masters – A Photographic Scrapbook. The original oil is purportedly displayed on the Augusta National Golf Club property where only members and privileged guests can view it. On a personal gift to the artist, the late Clifford Roberts, Augusta National Golf Club’s Co-Founder, wrote; “To David Jones, whose artistic efforts on behalf of our club have produced some of its most treasured assets.”    

This is where the story gets interesting. Also in 1977, Southern Graphics Ltd. was granted permission to produce and market a limited number of prints of the original Bobby Jones painting. The series was appropriately named “Emperor Jones.” It was limited to a maximum run of one thousand full-color, 29” x 19” lithograph prints on 100% rag / PH balanced acid-free paper. Case-Hoyt, an internationally recognized art lithographer in Atlanta, was commissioned to produce the series.

Of the original run, the first 362 were signed and numbered by the artist, 345 were numbered – but unsigned, and 293 are unaccounted for. Those unaccounted for most likely was the result of a short printing run, gifts, sales, and artist rejections. T. J. and David planned to sign and number the prints in batches as time and market demand required. In either case, before the series could be marketed, Southern Graphics Ltd. closed operations due to recession related issues. T. J. moved on to devote full attention to property development in North Carolina and eventually died in an aviation accident in 1983.

After the company closed, David refocused his attention to his various art-related passions in the Augusta area. He died in 1996 at the age of 70. He was a well-respected and talented artist and art authority in Augusta. He was a former director of the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art and assistant professor of Art History at Augusta College. He studied at the Yale School of Fine Arts and received a master’s degree from the University of Georgia. Early in his career he also worked for the New York Herald Tribune as a cartoonist and later in life as an architectural illustrator.

During David’s most productive years, he compiled an impressive and varied chronology of works. He was comfortable using a variety of media as evidenced by his life-sized bronze sculpture of Amelia Earhart for the Kemper Foundation of Kansas City. Between 1970 and 1979, in addition to the “Emperor Jones” painting, David was commissioned by Augusta National and its members to create many pieces. As previously noted, the late Clifford Roberts wrote on a personal gift to the artist, “To David Jones, whose artistic efforts on behalf of our club have produced some of its most treasured assets.

The following pieces are representative of David’s body of work for Augusta National and its members:

    • Bronze portrait bust of Bobby Jones for permanent display in the club’s Trophy Room
    • Numerous drawings & watercolors commissioned by Augusta National
    • Oil portraits commissioned by four Augusta National members
    • Oil murals of Augusta National’s Azalea Hole with 2000 copies reproduced and distributed to Augusta National members, players, and journalists worldwide
    • Numerous sketches and paintings reproduced in the book “Story of the Augusta National” by Clifford Roberts, published by Doubleday
    • Oil portrait of Bobby Jones in front of Augusta National for use as cover design for Augusta Magazine’s 1978 Masters Edition
    • Bronze portrait bust of Clifford Roberts for permanent display in Augusta National Trophy Room

Now For the First Time in 40 Years…

After T. J. Johnson’s death in 1983, legal ownership of the “Emperor Jones” series was passed to his parents, Roland and Clairrene Johnson of Andalusia, Alabama. Roland and Clairrene died in 1999 and 2006 respectively and their estates were passed on to their sons Earl V. Johnson of Andalusia, Alabama and Sam R. Johnson of Dahlonega, Georgia.

The “Emperor Jones” series has been in storage and all but forgotten for almost half a century. Now for the first time since 1977, the series has been brought out of the darkness and into the light where it belongs. All 362 signed and numbered prints, including the unsigned 345, are in pristine condition due to their storage in specially made containers located in an environmentally controlled cell at a local university. The series represents an indisputable lost golfing treasure and a rare piece of art with a distinguished pedigree.