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Loïs Mailou Jones

Artist 180

Loïs Mailou Jones


One of the first African-American artists to extend beyond the realm of portraiture

Loïs Mailou Jones (born 1905) was an African-American artist who specialized in painting. A Boston-born painter her career spanned 70 years across North America, Europe and Africa.

Jones attained much of notoriety for her art while living as a black expatriate in Paris during the 1930s and 1940s.

Her career began in textile design. Jones looked towards Africa and the Caribbean and her experiences in life when painting. As a result, her subjects were some of the first paintings by an African-American artist to extend beyond the realm of portraiture.

Jones was influenced by the Harlem Renaissance movement and her countless international trips. Lois Mailou Jones' career was enduring and complex. Her work in designs, paintings, illustrations, and academia made her an exceptional artist that continues to receive national attention and research.

Her eclectic style shifted over time, taking inspiration from African masks, French impressionist landscapes and bright Haitian patterns.

An active member of the Harlem Renaissance, she used vibrant visuals to heighten the urgency of her politically charged works, which addressed the joys and challenges of black life.

“Mine is a quiet exploration,” the artist famously said, “a quest for new meanings in color, texture and design. Even though I sometimes portray scenes of poor and struggling people, it is a great joy to paint.”

Throughout her career, Jones experienced discrimination as a black artist. For example, when she first began showing her artwork, she reportedly asked white friends to deliver her works to exhibitions in an effort to hide her black identity.

After teaching at an African-American art school in segregated North Carolina, Jones eventually took a position at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she taught for 47 years

Upon retiring, she continued to paint and exhibit her work until she died at 93 years old.

Despite not being a household name to some, her art lives on in esteemed institutions.

Sources Consulted:…/e…/us_58a499b2e4b094a129f1513c/amp…


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