Lois Mailou Jones

1905Boston, United States | 1998Washington, United States
Lois Mailou Jones — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

© Photo: National Archives at College Park

American painter.

Encouraged by the African-American sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller, Lois Mailou Jones enrolled in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, and went on to become the first African American to graduate from it. Showing great talent from a young age, she held her first solo exhibition when she was eighteen and worked as an assistant to the costume designer Grace Ripley. However, the racial bias she faced held her back, until she was finally recruited to work at Howard University, which would become the birthplace of the Harlem Renaissance. She eventually became one of the school’s the most eminent professors. She spent the year 1937 perfecting her art at the Académie Julian in Paris, where she adopted outdoor painting, working with the painter Émile Bernard (1868-1941). Her Parisian street scenes, painted in an impressionist style, such as Place du Tertre (1938), were admired at the 1938 edition of the Salon des Indépendants. It was during her stay in France that she discovered African art, which was very popular at the time in Parisian galleries and would inspire her to paint Les Fétiches (1938). After returning to New York, L. M. Jones chose to focus her work on the everyday lives of African Americans. The dignity that emanates from the figure of the old man about to be lynched in her Mob Victim (Meditation) (1944) and the beauty of the young woman cleaning a fish in Jennie (1943) earned her widespread critical and public acclaim.

In 1955, after having faced years of discrimination by institutions, L. M. Jones became the first African American to be accepted into the Society of Washington Artists. She married the Haitian artist Louis Vergniaud Pierre-Noël in 1953, and began to make frequent trips to Haiti, as a result of which her paintings became more vibrant, her shapes more minimalist and at times almost abstract. She also began to paint more spiritual subjects, such as Veve Voodoo II (1963). As a result of her multiple trips to Africa in the early 70s, her Ubi Girl from Tai Region (1972) showcases her acute sense of design. At once a painter, a stylist, an illustrator and a gifted teacher, L. M. Jones has led an outstanding career dedicated to shining a light on African-American art.

Sonia Recasens

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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