Lois Mailou Jones

Loïs Mailou Jones


Artist Details

Birth Place
Death Place
Washington, D.C.
Phonetic Spelling
LOH-iss M-EYE-loo joh-nz
Drawings and prints; Painting; Textiles and clothing
Places of Residence
Paris; Washington, D.C.
Howard University, Washington, D.C., 1935–45; Académie Julian, Paris, 1937–38; Columbia University, New York City, 1934–36; Designers Art School of Boston, Boston, 1927–28; School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1923–27; Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1927; Boston Normal Arts School, Boston, 1926–27
Retrospective Exhibitions

The World of Loïs Mailou Jones, Meridian House International, Washington, DC, 1990; Reflective Moments, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston, 1973; Lois Mailou Jones: Forty Years of Painting: 1932-1972, Howard University Gallery of Art, Howard University, Washington, DC, 1972


NMWA Exhibitions

Loïs Mailou Jones: A Life in Vibrant Color, 2010–2011
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997, 1997–98
Through Sisters' Eyes: Children's Books Illustrated by African American Women Artists, 1991–92

About the Artist

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.

Jones was raised in Boston by working-class parents who emphasized the importance of education and hard work. After graduating from Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Jones began designing textiles for several New York firms. She left in 1928 to take a teaching position at Palmer Memorial Institute in North Carolina. 

At Palmer, Jones founded the art department, coached basketball, taught folk dancing, and played the piano for Sunday services. Two years later, she was recruited by Howard University in Washington, D.C., to join its art department. From 1930–77, Jones trained several generations of African American artists, including David Driskell, Alma Thomas, Elizabeth Catlett, and Sylvia Snowden.

She began earning recognition for the content and technique of her own art. After a sabbatical year in Paris, Jones introduced African tribal art, a motif enormously popular in Parisian galleries, into her canvases. She was profoundly impacted by Paris, exhilarated by a country where her race seemed irrelevant. Her 1953 marriage to the Haitian graphic designer Louis Vergniaud Pierre-Noël influenced her further as she saw the bright colors and bold patterns of Haitian art on annual trips to her husband’s home. 

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.

National Museum of Women in the Arts