Lois Maliou Jones

February 05 2021

Lois Maliou Jones
Lois Maliou Jones

 During the 1930s and 1940s, Lois Jones was one of the most iconic artists of the time and became widely known while she was living in Paris, France. Lois was an influential artist, designer, and educator during her long career. Having been influenced by the Harlem Renaissance movement and her many overseas travels, her art showcases the colorful and beautiful culture of the African-American people. She had to deal with many struggles, and most often she was not acknowledged for her creative works. Let’s dig deeper into the history of this artistic genius, and let’s see what you and I can learn from her. 


Lois Maliou Jones - Quick Facts


Full Name:

Lois Maliou Jones

Date of Birth:

3 November 1905


Louis Vergniaud Pierre-Noel



Known for:

Illustrations & paintings


Harlem Renaissance


9 June 1998 (92 years old)

The Early Life of Lois Jones

Lois Jones was born in Boston, Massachusetts to middle-class parents, Thomas Vreeland and Carolyn Jones. Her father first worked as a building superintendent, and later became the first African-American to study law. Jones’ mother worked in the beauty industry. 


From a very early age, Lois had a talent for drawing and painting, and her parents encouraged her to make her dream a reality. From Boston, the family moved to Martha’s Vineyard, where Lois met those who influenced her career in the arts such as composer Harry T. Burleigh and sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller. 


From the years 1919 to 1923, Jones went to the High School of Practical Arts and during the evenings she took night classes from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. At the young age of 17 years old, Jones held her first solo exhibition in Marta’s Vineyard. It was during this time that she started to show an interest in African masks, and began to create costume designs for an arts and dance school, Denishawn. 

Between 1923 and 1927, Lois studied design at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. From the year 1928, Jones attended Howard University and decided to change the course of her studies, focusing more on painting rather than design. 


Having a keen interest in cultural masks, Lois took night classes to learn more about them at Columbia University in the year 1934.


Jones received a BA in Art Education in 1934, graduating magna am laude.  


Lois Jones Through the Years (1928-1998)


Lois Jones’ career began in the 1930s after she graduated and she continued to create art until she died in 1998. Jones traveled extensively throughout Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean, which influenced the style in which she painted. 




Jones was sought after by James Vernon Herring in 1930 to join the art department at Howard University in Washington, DC. Jones continued to teach design and watercolor painting here for many years. 


In the early 1930s. Jones started to shift towards drawing and painting portraits. Her charcoal drawing of a student called Negro Youth (1929) was exhibited with the William E. Harmon Foundation. 


Jones’ artwork  Ascent of Ethiopia was influenced by a Harlem Renaissance artist, Aaron Douglas. African masks continued to influence Jones’ art pieces because it is evident in her works Negro Youth and Ascent of Ethiopia. 


In 1937, Jones was invited to study abroad in Paris, France at the Académie Julian. Jones had said that while she was in France, she felt truly accepted by society as an artist, as opposed to what she experienced back home. During her time at the Académie, she completed about 40 paintings.


Jones completed an African-inspired oil painting in 1938, called Les Fétiches (1938). This work of art is owned by The Smithsonian American Art Museum.


During the 1940s, Jones worked closely with Céline Marie Tabary, a fellow painter, for many years. They frequently traveled together and they would sometimes paint each other. In 1941, Jones had asked her friend to enter her work into the Corcoran Gallery’s annual competition because African-American artists were prohibited. As a result, Jones ended up winning and Tabary mailed Jones the award. 


In 1952, Jones painted a striking and poignant painting called Mob Victim (Meditation). She asked a man to pose for her as the man had witnessed a person being lynched. He acted out the horrific scene of the man being lynched for the painting. During the 1940s, many African-American men succumbed to this way of killing and Jones wanted to create an awareness of this terrible issue. 


In 1954, Jones and her Haitian husband were residing in Haiti. She was invited by the Haitian government to paint the people of Haiti and it’s landscapes. In many of her pieces, there is a  noticeable influence of Haitian culture mixed with African culture. 


Then in 1955, she revealed portraits of the Haitian President and First Lady commissioned by the American President Dwight D. Eisenhower. 


Between the years 1968 and 1970, Jones traveled to 11 different African countries which played a big influence in her paintings. 


On 22 May 1970, Jones partook in a protest that took place in Washington, DC, protesting against the war in Vietnam and racism. 


A very special day was declared in Washington, DC on July 29, 1984, called Lois Jones Day.


Despite her very impressive portfolio, she had been left out of many history books because she insisted on being unique, and refused to paint the usual subjects that were suitable for African-American’s to paint. 


In 1998, at the age of 92 years old, Jones passed away. As a way of remembering Lois Jones, Howard University hosted a very special exhibition in her honor. 

In Conclusion

The creative works of Lois Jones are loved by many museums and art collectors all over the world. Jones wished that she would be known as an American painter, and after many years of struggling, she is finally recognized for the work that she created without being labeled. We can learn so much from her love and passion for the African culture and American history. Jones was not afraid to speak out on the terrible injustices that she had seen. So let’s take a lesson from her courage, and perhaps you and I can also change the world!