Urgent Museum Notice

Georgia Mills Jessup

A black-and-white photograph of an adult woman with long dark hair in a braid. She wears a plaid shirt, jacket, large belt and hoop earrings. Her hand is touching her braid. She stands next to a painting which depicts an abstract street scene.

Photo courtesy of Marsha Jessup

1926–2016

A self-described “melting pot,” Jessup has traced African American, Native American, and European forebears. She credited her interest in working with clay to the Pamunkey Tribe of Virginia, ancestors whose pottery tradition predates European settlement of the region by many centuries.

The 13th of 18 children, Jessup displayed artistic talent at a young age and apprenticed with Herman L. Walker, a Works Progress Administration (WPA) artist. The New York World’s Fair selected two of her paintings for exhibition in 1939, when she was just a teenager. She went on to earn her BFA in 1959 and MFA in 1969 at two Washington, D.C., institutions, Howard University and The Catholic University of America.

Jessup had deep roots in Washington, D.C., as did one of her teachers, Loïs Mailou Jones. Like Jones, Jessup was a powerful advocate for education in the city, teaching for 13 years in the D.C. public school system, becoming its art supervisor and founding “The World is Your Museum” (forerunner to the Capital Children’s Museum). She also served as the first artist-in-residence at the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Neighborhood Museum.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Georgia Mills Jessup
  • Birth

    Washington, D.C., 1926
  • Death

    Columbia, Maryland, 2016

Works by Georgia Mills Jessup

Rainy Night, Downtown

In Rainy Night, Downtown, Georgia Mills Jessup used contrasts of orange and black, light and shadow to capture the visual energy of an urban scene. Illuminated signs offering services and entertainments compete with haloed traffic lights and webs of architecture for the viewer’s attention.

Tightly painted details in the center of the composition yield to softly blurred, dripping forms along the lower...

Heavy black lines along with circles and ovals rendered in hot hues of orange and yellow evoke urban architecture and the glare of streetlights in an abstract painting. Two shadowy figures occupy the lower right, and legible signs include “Translux,” “St. H NW,” and “Casino.”