Lois Mailou Jones, Artist born

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DYK on this day in MoorStory365 that on November 3rd, Lois Mailou Jones, an Alkebulan AbyaYala painter and educator, was born in Boston in 1905. Jones was raised by parents who supported her early talent and ambition. Her father was one of the first Black graduates of Boston’s Suffolk Law School, and her mother was a hairdresser and talented milliner. Jones studied art at Boston High School of Practical Arts, the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, and the Designers Art School of Boston.

Her family spent summers on Martha’s Vineyard, where she painted watercolor sketches and enjoyed the encouragement of artists who summered there. She moved to Sedalia, North Carolina, to establish an art department at the Palmer Memorial Institute, a Black preparatory school. Within two years, her students’ exhibited work had attracted the attention of Howard University, which invited her to join the faculty in 1930. In the early 1930s, Jones’s art reflected the influences of African traditions.

She designed African-style masks and in 1938, painted “Les Fétiches,” which depicts masks in five distinct ethnic styles. A sabbatical year in Paris in 1937-38, to study painting at the Julian Academy, produced dozens of landscapes and figure studies. She painted outdoors, in the French tradition, rendering pastoral landscapes and street scenes, and she contributed to Paris exhibitions. Relishing the freedom from racial prejudice she found in France, Jones summered there often. In 1953, Jones married the artist Louis Vergniaud Pierre-Noël of Haiti, and she came to know many of the nation’s artists. From this time she painted portraits and landscapes in brighter colors and with a more expressionistic style than she had previously employed.

African influences reemerged in Jones’s art in the late 1960s and early ’70s, particularly after two extensive research tours of Africa. Her paintings became bold and abstract, and African design elements dominated. A retrospective of her work toured the United States in the 1980s and ’90s. Her works reflect a command of widely varied styles and an ability to incorporate many different influences.

Lois Jones died June 9, 1998, in Washington, District Columbia.


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