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Joe Jones

 (1909 - 1963)
Joe (Joseph John) Jones was active/lived in Missouri, New York, New Jersey.  Joe Jones is known for regionalist and abstract painting.

Joe Jones

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Joe Jones
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, April 7, 1909, and died in Morristown, New Jersey, 1963, Joe Jones was a painter and lithographer.  Self taught, he quit school at age fifteen to work as a house painter.

Winning his first award in 1931, Jones gained the attention of St. Louis patrons who financed his travel to the artists' colony in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  He began winning awards at age 22 in 1931 with his early paintings that are typical Midwestern Regionalist works depicting wheat fields and wheat farming. 

A political activist as well as a painter, Jones organized art classes for unemployed youngsters, which he held in the old St. Louis courthouse in 1934.  He alienated his supporters with the pronouncement that he had joined the Communist Party, so Jones signed up for the Public Works of Art Project in 1934.

He left St. Louis in 1935 to pursue his art career in New York.  In 1937, he was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship to create a pictorial record of conditions in the dust bowl.  That same year, his work was included in a major 119 exhibition at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, PA.

Through the period of the WPA Jones was awarded five major mural commissions.  As a result, he created murals for the post offices at Seneca, Kansas, Men and Wheat (1940);  Anthony, Kansas, Turning a Corner (1939); Hutchinson, Kansas; Magnolia, Arkansas; and Charleston, Missouri.

During World War II he worked as a war artist for Life magazine.   Because Jones addressed major political and social issues in so many of his paintings, he is typically cited as a Social Realist as well as a Regionalist.  His style changed in the late 1940s to minimal and non-representational. He also worked as an instructor at St. Bernards School for Boys, Ralston, NJ.

Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Wiebe, Joanna K. “Kansans Cared About their New Deal Art”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 21, 1972. p.1E & 7E-----. “Local Legends Live in Art”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 22, 1972. p.1A & 3A-----. “Age Enhances Fort Scott Mural”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 23, 1972. p.1A & 8A-----. “Halstead Legend Perpetuated”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 24, 1972. p.1A & 16A -----. “Scenics, Murals and Lithographs Included in Kansas New Deal Art”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 25, 1972. p.15A.; Who’s Who in American Art. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1936- v.1=1936-37 v.3= 1941-42 v.2=1938-39 v.4=1940-47.1 6,7; Esquire (June 1945); Bruner, Ronald Irwin. New Deal Art Workers in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. Thesis. University of Denver, 1979.; AskArt,, accessed Dec. 16, 2005; Joe Jones (New York: A.C.A. Gallery, 1940).

This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Joe Jones
A painter, muralist and political activist, Joe Jones was associated with American scene painting and for some time worked closely with Thomas Hart Benton, with whom he remained friends. However, in the late 1940s, Jones' style diverged dramatically from Benton's and became very minimalist and non-representational. His paintings run the gamut from strong social protest to sheer exuberant beauty, and "the wheat fields of the Midwest stirred his passions as much as striking workers in the height of the Depression.

He was born on the edge of a slum neighborhood in Saint Louis, Missouri, where his father was a house painter. Jones was basically self taught as an artist, and at the age of 22 in 1931, began earning awards. In 1935, he held his first exhibition in New York, which was acclaimed by poet and critic Archibald Macleish: "There is more scope, more vitality, and more promise as well as more mastery, than most artists a decade his senior."

In 1937, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship and subsequently prizes from the Pennsylvania and National Academies.

Treadway Toomey Galleries
"American Art Notes", Autumn 1989

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About  Joe Jones

Born:  1909 - Saint Louis, Missouri
Died:   1963 - Morristown, New Jersey
Known for:  regionalist and abstract painting