The son of a mezzotint engraver, Jones began attending the RA Schools at the age of fifteen. He was in the military in the Napoleonic Wars, part of the occupying force in Paris after the Battle of Waterloo. This likely gave him opportunity to gather material for the military scenes for which he was most famous. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1822, a full member in 1824, becoming its librarian and its keeper from 1840 to 1850. He was friends with JMW Turner, ultimately becoming his executor, writing a short memoir of him and painting pictures recording his gallery.