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As part of the Year in Art Effort, every week Washington Project for The Arts and BYT will come together to give you a tidbit of the (some may say surprisingly?) colorful DC Art History. Be ready to be a cocktail party conversation star:

Lois Mailou Jones

Lois Mailou Jones was from Boston, Massachusetts and was a very influential artist during the Harlem Renaissance. Through her training and determination she was able to create works that marked where she was during her life and her interests. Jones was also the first African-American to win the coveted Robert Wood Bliss Prize for Landscape from the Corcoran in 1941.

Jones had been trained in drawing, painting and textile design in the 1920s, but along the way she fought against sexism and racism.  In order for her to win the Robert Wood Bliss Prize from Landscape from the Corcoran, Jones had to disguise who the work was done by. At the time the gallery was not accepting art work done by African-Americans. So she had her friend, Céline Tabary, drop it off. And when Jones won the award, she had it mailed to her. This soon became a common trend for Jones.

Indian Shops Gay Head, Robert Wood Bliss Prize for Landscape winner

Indian Shops Gay Head, Robert Wood Bliss Prize for Landscape winner

Even though this woman had won many scholarships and studied at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Académie Julian in Paris, France she still wanted to avoid racism at all costs. This is why she took to shipping her works to galleries, rather than presenting them herself.

As Jones began to grow as an artist and teacher she came back to D.C. to help others learn her techniques as well. Howard University snatched her up as a professor and there she received the encouragement and funds to help her break her ties with conventional art, and she began to create more African Art. She traveled to many different countries in Africa and her art focused more on the African culture as she began to learn more and more.

The Ascent of Ethiopia, 1932, oil on canvas

The Ascent of Ethiopia, 1932, oil on canvas

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Washington Project for the Arts is celebrating it’s 35th Birthday this Year. Learn more here: http://www.wpadc.org/

Previously on Art History in DC:

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