II

Narratives of African American Art and Identity

Loïs Mailou Jones

Ethiopian Boy, 1948

Tempera on paper

7.75" x 5.75"


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Ethiopian Boy

Loïs Mailou Jones's interest in visually depicting African subjects and aesthetics in her work began in 1932 with the creation of the painting The Ascent of Ethiopia. Over the next few years, Jones continued to create images reflecting African themes and material culture in works such as Africa, 1935; African Bathers, 1937; Les Fétiches, 1938; and her illustrations for Carter G. Woodson's publication, African Heroes and Heroines, 1939.

Jones's interest in the illustration of African culture was reinforced during the late 1930s by Howard University professor and philosopher Alain Locke who, according to art historian Tritobia Benjamin, strongly encouraged Jones to take her heritage more seriously. Jones warmly received Locke's advice and, during the 1940s, began to increase her artistic focus on the portrayal of Americans of African descent. Ethiopian Boy, 1948, exemplifies the romanticized manner in which she painted her subjects. Although the identity of the sitter is unknown and may in fact be a portrait of a model rather than an Ethiopian citizen, Jones's dignified portrayal of the "African" youth reflects a positive and uplifting image of African people that was rare during the era of this work's creation.   T. F.

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