Iconic Women

African-American Painter Lois Mailou Jones

By Aisha Kabiru Mohammed | Feb 22, 2023

Lois Mailou Jones is an American painter and educator, she had a wide range of artistic techniques, from traditional landscape to abstract art with African themes.


Lois Jones' middle-class parents took her to Boston where they fostered her early talent and drive. At the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Designers Art School, and Boston High School of Practical Arts, she studied art. On Martha's Vineyard, where her family spent the summers, she produced watercolour sketches and benefited from the support of visiting artists. 


To start an art program at the Palmer Memorial Institute, a black preparatory school, she relocated to Sedalia, North Carolina. Her students' displays at Howard University in Washington, D.C., within two years, caught people's notice; she joined Howard's Faculty in 1930.


Jones's artwork from the early 1930s represented the traditions of Africa. She created masks in the African style and painted Les Fétiches in 1938, which features masks in five various ethnic forms. She created landscapes and figure studies while on vacation in Paris in 1937–1938 to pursue painting at the Académie Julian, which she would utilize as source material for a dozen years. 


She participated in shows in Paris by creating outdoor paintings of pastoral landscapes and urban settings in the French tradition. Jones spent numerous summers in France because she loved the lack of racial prejudice she encountered there.

Jones met a lot of the artists from Haiti after she wed the artist Louis Vergniaud Pierre-Nol in 1953. As of this point, she used brighter colours and an expressionistic approach than she had previously used to create portraits and landscapes. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, African influences returned to Jones' art, especially following two major research trips to the continent. African design themes started to dominate as her paintings grew more brash and abstract. In the 1980s and 1990s, a retrospective of her work travelled throughout the country.


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