Urgent Museum Notice

Loïs Mailou Jones & the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

Blog Category:  NMWA Exhibitions
Semi-abstract composition in shades of blue, orange, yellow, green, grey, white and burgundy. In the center, an orange oval with a black and white eye in the center, supported by symmetrical strips of semi-circles and diamonds. Vertical blocks of color reach upwards on both sides.

Several of the photographs included in Loïs Mailou Jones: A Life in Vibrant Color and many of the photographs in the exhibition catalog were selected from the personal papers of Loïs Mailou Jones. This private documentation of the artist’s life and affairs is housed at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center on the campus of Howard University.

A medium-skinned African American woman wearing glasses and a black dress with metallic polka dots. She is in the middle of speaking while people wearing suits seated in the background listen.
Loïs Mailou Jones at a banquet on the campus of Howard University, Photo Courtesy of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

Joellen ElBashir, Curator of Manuscripts at the Research Center, personally handled the acquisition of Loïs Mailou Jones’s papers in 1997. This proved a daunting task, as the artist’s home was a veritable archive and art gallery in its own right, filled from wall to wall with paintings, sculpture, and Jones’ meticulous files documenting her various career paths and research abroad. Mrs. ElBashir recalls seeing a painting by Pablo Picasso hung beside the stairs in the artist’s home. As Dr. Tritobia Hayes-Benjamin has stated in the exhibition catalog, Jones was the quintessential self-publicist—never wasting an opportunity—and her papers reflect that attention to detail. She preserved every flyer, catalog, award, and photograph related to her art, a habit which cements her papers as the definitive record of her life and career.

Loïs Mailou Jones’s papers are extensive: more than 75 boxes of scrapbooks, sketches, writings by and concerning the artist, correspondence dating back to the early 1900s, as well as photographs and notes taken during her journeys to Haiti and a number of African nations. They stand as a testament to the life and career of a tireless advocate for African American art, an experimental and innovative thinker, and a true artistic pioneer. The personal papers of Loïs Mailou Jones are made available to researchers by appointment only. For further information or to schedule an appointment, call 202-806-7480.

A black and white photograph of two medium-skinned African American women wearing 1920s style dresses, white stockings, and black heeled shoes standing in front of a door.
Loïs Mailou Jones (left) with a colleague at the Palmer Memorial Institute in North Carolina, c. 1929, Photo Courtesy of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

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