Joe Jones: Radical Painter of the American Scene

September 19, 2012 Posted by: Tom Dewey, Librarian

Joe Jones (1909-1963) was an American painter and social realist from St. Louis. His artistic career is explored in Andrew Walker's book, Joe Jones: Radical Painter of the American Scene. The book is a catalogue for a recent exhibition on Jones.Walker examines Jones's meteoric rise from humble housepainter to established artist of national importance and recognition.

The book offers five essays that place Jones in social and art-historical context, exploring his significance in the St. Louis art world, the centrality of race and social justice to his life and work, the Dust Bowl, the Ste. Genevieve art colony, and Jones's years in New York.

Jones began to attract attention from art critics and the media in St. Louis while he was teaching art classes in the St. Louis Old Courthouse. In the mid-1930s he was commissioned to paint a series of murals for a St. Louis liquor merchant. One of these paintings, Riverfront (905 Mural), is now in the museum collection of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and is currently on view in their administrative offices, located in the Old Courthouse.

There is much variety and dynamism in Jones's work and it is reproduced beautifully in this book. But this volume is more than a just a catalogue. Walker takes time to explore the issues that were major influences on Jones during his career: communism, race issues, civil rights and social commitment. The book captures Jones's passions and personality giving readers a nuanced and interesting look at the man who painted what moved him.

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