In a career spanning more than 70 years, Loïs Mailou Jones overcame racial and gender prejudices to become a successful and influential painter, designer, and educator.*
Throughout her career, Jones has championed the international artistic achievement of African-American art. She has also been an important role model for other African-American artists, particularly those involved with her design and watercolor courses at Howard University from 1930 to 1977,** including David Driskell, Alma Thomas, Elizabeth Catlett, and Sylvia Snowden.*
In 1937, Jones took a one-year sabbatical from Howard University to study at Academie Julian in Paris.***
While living abroad, many of Jones’s works were inspired by the Luxembourg Gardens, boulevards, art galleries, and cafes of Paris. Her most celebrated Parisian painting, “Les Fetiches,” was a depiction of African Masks. Much of Jones’s art reflects her summer travels to Martha’s Vineyard and her travels to Africa and Haiti. Jones, however, credited France with giving her the freedom and stability she needed to flourish as an artist.***
After retiring from Howard University in 1977, Jones continued to exhibit, paint, and travel. Throughout her seven-decade career, she became the recipient of many prestigious honors and awards, including one from the Harmon Foundation and Corcoran Gallery of Art.***
In 1970, Jones was commissioned by the United States Information Agency to serve as a cultural ambassador to Africa. She gave lectures, interviewed local artists, and visited museums in 11 countries. This experience led her to further explore African subjects in her work, especially her 1971–1989 paintings.*
Loïs Mailou Jones’s work was abstract and hard-edged and her impressionist techniques gave way to a richly patterned and brilliantly colored style. She produced work that echoed her pride in her African roots and American ancestry. Jones felt her greatest gift to the art world was “proof of the talent of black artists” and her fondest wish was to be known as an “artist,” without labels like “black artist” or “woman artist.”****
Charles H. Rowell, “An Interview with Lois Mailou Jones.” Callaloo. 12:2 (Spring, 1989): 357 -378); Fern Gillespie, “The Legacy of Lois Mailou Jones,” Howard Magazine (Winter 1999): 8-13; Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998), http://www.phillipscollection.org/research/american_art/bios/jones-bio.htm.
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