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 Nell Hinton Choate Jones  (1879 - 1981)

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Lived/Active: New York/Georgia      Known for: modernist street genre and landscape painting

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Ad Code: 3
Nell Hinton Choate Jones
from Auction House Records.
"Country Scene in Georgia"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Long-lived painter Nell Choate Jones was born in 1879 in Hawkinsville, Georgia and lived to be over one-hundred years of age.  She got a late start in her artistic career and didn't begin to exhibit her work until 1927.  Her husband, Eugene Jones, also an artist, urged her to explore her own artistic leanings by encouraging her to attend the Adelphi Academy in Brooklyn, New York.  This was in the 1920s when Jones was over forty years old.  She had studied privately, before receiving a scholarship that helped her to a year of study in England and France, painting impressionist landscapes in Fontainebleau.  She also did painting in New Mexico of Pueblos and other Native American subjects.  By 1936, Jones was back in Georgia, painting expressionist works of black men and women.

In New York City, she was President of both the American Society of Contemporary Artists and National Association of Women Artists.  Personally and in her art, Jones was responsive to the problems of women as artists and in society.

The recipient of many honors and awards, Jones paintings are in collections in America and abroad.  Jones is listed in the tenth edition of Who's Who in American Art, published in 1970 by the American Federation of Arts.

Nell Choate Jones died in 1981.

Her work was included in a 1999 exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art of the University of Georgia, Athens: Before 1948: American Paintings from Georgia Collections.

Jules and Nancy Heller, North American Artists of the 20th Century

Biography from The Johnson Collection:
While Nell Choate Jones did not take up her brush until mid-life, she nonetheless became an international success and pivotal to the promotion of the visual arts in her native Georgia and in her adopted home of Brooklyn, New York. Between 1925 and her death at the age of 101, Jones’ paintings were exhibited in museums, galleries, and expositions in this country and abroad. Throughout her career, Jones supported various women’s art organizations and worked to make art more accessible to Georgians. Although she left the South when still quite young, Jones always considered herself a Southerner. When asked about her reliance on the region as a source of inspiration in a 1979 interview, Jones stated, “I was born here. I am a Southerner and that’s all there is to it.”

Born in Hawkinsville, Georgia, Jones was only five years old when her father, who had served as a captain in the Confederate forces, died and her family relocated to Brooklyn. Following graduation from Adelphi Academy, she taught elementary school. But Jones’ career objectives changed in the 1920s, when her husband, the etcher and painter Eugene Arthur Jones, encouraged her to focus on art. Prospect Park, replete with gardens and convenient to her Brooklyn residence, became her muse, and she was soon accompanying her husband to artist colonies in Woodstock, New York, and Old Lyme, Connecticut, during the summer months. Her thickly painted impressionistic landscapes appeared in the Southern States Art League’s 1925 exhibition in Atlanta and, two years later, at the Holt Gallery in New York City. Encouraged by favorable reviews, Jones traveled to Paris in 1929, where she was awarded a scholarship to the Fontainebleau School of Art, located in the heart of the French countryside made famous by the Barbizon painters. She also studied in England and spent time painting in Italy and New Mexico.

In 1936, Jones returned to Georgia to bury her only sister alongside her parents. She took in the Southern landscape with fresh eyes, finding inspiration in the lush green foliage, red clay dirt, and rugged landscape. This subject matter triggered a shift in Jones’ aesthetic, and her paintings from this time forward are characterized by simplified forms, bold colors, and sinuous lines that are a notable departure from her comparatively static Impressionist work. She began to make periodic trips to the South, where she created landscapes as well as genre scenes of regional traditions. Frequently, her paintings depict African Americans at labor and in moments of leisure. Although Jones’ preference for provincial subjects suggests her awareness of the emerging American Regionalist school of the 1930s, her employment of a more modern, expressionistic technique distinguishes her from this movement.

These were the paintings that earned Jones entry into important regional and national exhibitions, including the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and also garnered commercial attention. An avid supporter of the arts, Jones served as president of the National Association of Women Artists and, simultaneously, as the first female president of the Brooklyn Society of Artists. She did not forget her Southern home, however. In 1941, Jones initiated efforts to establish an art museum at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, to which she donated twelve paintings. As Jones neared her centennial birthday, she was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Women Artists and was honored with a Distinguished Citizen Award from the Brooklyn Museum. Upon her death, Jones’ family honored her request that her ashes be placed in the Georgia clay that had been such a powerful source of artistic inspiration for her in life.

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
Nell Choate Jones painted in a style that, while not abstract, eschews detail for form while it emphasizes mass, movement and contour.  In picture after picture it is the sway of a back, the bend in an elbow, or the carriage of a head held high that gives her figures character and charges them with life.

Jones was born in Hawkinsville, Georgia, in 1879, the daughter of James Choate, a Captain in the Confederate army, and Cornelia Roquemore. Her grandfather Choate was an architect "who built lovely things in Milledgeville. . . beautiful gateways and other artistic designs," according to an undated newspaper clipping.  When her father died in 1884, the family moved to New York, where Nell lived to be 101 years old.

She attended Adelphi Academy in the fashionable Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. For many years she taught kindergarten and elementary school.  It was only in the 1920s that, encouraged by her husband, Eugene A. Jones, a painter and etcher, she took up painting.  She studied with Fred J. Boston and John F. Carlson and with Auguste Garguet at the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts in France.  In a joint show with Eugene in 1927 at the Holt Gallery on Lexington Avenue, she showed the fruits of her year at Fontainebleau as well as scenes of Woodstock and Old Lyme, artists colonies which she and her husband frequented.

On a visit to Georgia in 1936 to attend her sister's funeral, Nell Jones was impressed by the red Georgia clay, the lush green foliage, and the colorful and seemingly simpler life of the state's rural Afro-Americans as subjects for her canvases.  She began with this trip to visit the South regularly.  The work which resulted was often exhibited with the Southern States Art League and found its way into important southern museum collections such as Atlanta's High Museum of Art and the Fort Worth Art Museum.

Highly respected in her profession, Nell was elected President of the Brooklyn Society of Artists in 1949, becoming the first woman to head that organization in its thirty-four year history.  While still in that office she was asked to head the National Association of Women Artists.  The NAWA, founded in a studio on Washington Square in 1889 with only five members, numbered eight hundred when Nell was elected President in 1951.  As a participant in this group she was invited to display her work nationally and internationally, including at the New York World's Fair of 1940 and in the American Gallery of Athens, Greece in 1 957.  At the age of ninety-six Nell was chosen as the NAWA's Woman of the Year.

Nell Jones was an active woman into her final years.  The Director of the Marbella Gallery in New York, the last gallery to give her a show, which was mounted in 1979, recalled her bravely ascending a flight of stairs to see the installation. She was chatty that day in her one-hundredth year, full of questions and information about the many artists she had known over her long, distinguished career.

Nell Jones died in Brooklyn just two years later.

Cynthia Seibels
Copyright 1990 Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc.
This essay and its contents are the property of Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc. and may not be reproduced in part or in full without express written permission.

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