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 Leon Foster Jones  (1871 - 1940)

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Lived/Active: New Hampshire      Known for: Landscape painting, etching, lithography, art education

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Ad Code: 3
Leon Foster Jones
from Auction House Records.
Suncook River, New Hampshire
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
This following biography was researched, compiled, and written by Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director, Southold Historical Society, Southold, NY.

Leon Foster Jones (October 18, 1871 – January 4, 1940)

Landscape painter, etcher, lithographer, and teacher.  Born in Manchester, New Hampshire, the son of Mary A. Jones (1846-1916) and Frank A. Jones (1840-b. 1910).  His father was the overseer in one of the hosiery mills located in and about Manchester.  He married his wife, Josephine Currier (b. 1876), around 1901.  During the early years of their marriage he and his wife lived in Concord, New Hampshire.  They settled permanently in Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York in 1910, though he was working there as early as 1907.  According to multiple sources, during his lifetime Jones was best known for his paintings and etchings that depicted historic locations across Long Island.  In Port Jefferson he was known simply by his nickname, "Jonesie."

Jones studied for four years at the Cowles Art School in Boston, Massachusetts under Joseph Rodefer DeCamp (1858-1923) and Ernest Lee Major (1864-1951). The Cowles Art School was located two blocks behind the old Museum of Fine Arts building, in the new studio building at 145 Dartmouth.  Later, Jones did illustrative work for Frank A. Munsey (1854-1925), the noted newspaper and magazine publisher, and spent twelve years working in commercial drawing during the winters while spending the summers sketching on Long Island.  One of his known book illustration jobs was for the work Monkey Shines - Little Tales for Little Children, which was published by the A. Wessels Company (1904).  A 1912 article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle called Jones "a promising young artist..."

Leon Foster Jones decided he needed more artistic training, and therefore in April of 1914 he traveled to study in Europe.  In August, at the outbreak of the first World War, he found himself trapped, unable to return to the United States.  He had to apply for an emergency passport in England, and traveled back to America aboard a freight vessel with many other Americans who had been stranded in Europe at the outbreak of the war.  He finally arrived from Warwick, England in late September of 1914 in Boston, Massachusetts.  Upon his return, he and his wife left immediately for Concord, New Hampshire to recover from the experience.

Though they came to live in Port Jefferson full time, they would continue to return to New Hampshire during the summers.  Between 1912 and 1916 they were regular visitors to New Hampshire, both to paint and to visit with Leon's aging mother, Mary.  They returned again to deal with her death in August of 1916.  During this period Jones was, along with other fellow artists Susan Bissell (d. 1920) and Reynolds Beal (1866-1951), involved in a popular summer arts school operated by the New York School of Fine and Applied Art in Belle Terre, which overlooked the village of Port Jefferson.  According to local writer Kenneth Brady:  

"In 1914, with the energetic and personable Bissell spearheading the project, the New York School acquired land in Belle Terre and made plans to construct a summer school on the property...  .... The summer school opened on July 1, 1914, with 130 students from twenty-seven states, England, Canada, and Puerto Rico in attendance. The summer school offered courses in fine art, such as painting and drawing, as well as electives in applied art, including interior decoration and illustrative advertising.  Credits earned during July/August could be applied toward a diploma from the New York School at its main “winter” campus in Manhattan.  Among the summer session’s talented instructors, the charismatic Frank Alvah Parsons, the New York School’s president, lectured on his revolutionary theories of design, opening the well-attended talks to the general public.  Jonas Lie, Howard Giles and Edmund Greacen, who had studied with Chase at Shinnecock Hills, taught the painting classes.  The pupils worked outdoors, painting scenes of Belle Terre, Port Jefferson and neighboring villages...  ...The New York School ran its summer classes in Belle Terre from 1914-16, each year charging a $40 tuition fee for the two-month session.  Bissell ably administered the popular program during this period, even purchasing and then renovating a home on Port Jefferson’s Bleeker Street to be closer to work.  After the United States entered World War I, the New York School curtailed travel and conserved resources, holding its 1917 summer classes in Manhattan instead of on Long Island.  Bissell later attempted to reopen the Belle Terre school, but unfortunately could not find suitable housing for the students...  ...Bissell died at her Port Jefferson home on September 14, 1920. The New York School continued to run its summer program in Manhattan until 1921 when classes were offered in Paris."

Jones saw a rise in his success during this period, and was invited to be part of the fine arts exhibition at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915, where he received a silver medal for his efforts.  At the exposition he exhibited two paintings, and at least one depicted Port Jefferson.  It was a view of the "Old Buffet Place on East Broadway" in the village.  The other work he exhibited, a winter scene entitled "Misty Day in Winter," is now in the collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art.  

During the 1920s and 30s, Leon Foster Jones exhibited all over Long Island, and continued to meet and visit with his fellow artists.  The noted painter Charles Vezin (1858-1922), stayed with him in Port Jefferson during July of 1922.  Jones was also a participant in the landmark Long Island artists exhibition held at the Brooklyn Museum in 1930 and 1931.  He also worked for the Federal Art Project, which was part of President Franklin Roosevelt's WPA programs during the 1930s.  His works were discussed at a presentation on the local aspects of the project, which was held in Patchogue, Long Island, in December of 1936.

It was also during the 1930s that Jones took up his last great position on Long Island.  He joined the staff of the Stony Brook School for Boys, a college preparatory school located in Stony Brook, Long Island, in 1933 as the art instructor and served in his position there until his death.  Always interested in student artists, he served as a judge of a local poster contest in 1931 that lead to a Suffolk County wide poster design contest for high school students the following year (1932).  When he was not busy teaching or painting landscapes, he painted and improved signs for local Port Jefferson community groups.

Leon Foster Jones died of heart trouble at Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson on Thursday, the 4th of January 1940.  He was sixty-seven years old.  His service was held in the chapel located at the Stony Brook School for Boys and he was buried at the Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jefferson.  His wife, Josephine Currier Jones, survived him.
The paintings of Leon Foster Jones have often been compared with the works of Willard Metcalf (1858-1925), one of New England's best known impressionist painters.  Jones’s print works are far more common than his paintings.  According to an article published in the Port Jefferson Record in August of 1988, Jones “...didn’t paint for money...  ...he wanted to paint for people’s enjoyment."  A major exhibition of Jones's works and those of fellow Long Island painter William Moore Davis (1829-1920), was organized by the Museums at Stony Brook (now the Long Island Museum of Art , History, and Carriages) in 1993.

As the full scope of his lifetime exhibitions is not known, here are just a few of those that have been reported:   Salmagundi Club, New York, NY, 1907, 1917, 1929; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, 1911; Hamilton Club, Brooklyn, NY, 1912; Panama Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, CA, 1915 (prize); Associated Artists of Long Island, Patchogue, NY, 1925; Port Jefferson Free Library, Port Jefferson, NY, 1925 (solo), 1926 (solo); Art League of Nassau County, Roslyn, NY, 1929; Belle Terre Garden Club Exhibition, Belle Terre, NY, 1930 (solo); Oil Paintings by Brooklyn and Long Island Artists, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY, 1930-31;  Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY, 1931; WPA Rotating Exhibition, Patchogue NY, 1936; WPA Print Exhibition at Keuka College, Penn Yan, NY, 1941 (memorial);  Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, (u.d.);  Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ, (u.d.); Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, (u.d.); Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA, (u.d.).  He was a long time member of the Salmagundi Club in New York City and the Artists Fund Society.

The public institutions which are known to hold Jones's works includes:  Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL; Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Long Island Museum of Art , History, and Carriages, Stony Brook, NY; Port Jefferson Free Library, Port Jefferson, NY; Port Jefferson Historical Society, Port Jefferson, NY.  A large number of his works also reside in private collections throughout the United States.

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Leon Jones is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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