In Frederick D. Jones’ untitled painting, a woman stands alone in a barren landscape—the sky is dark and ominous, and flags billow in the harsh winds from the stormy waters behind her. Yet, dressed in yellow, she is a beacon of light, a vision of peace and purity. She looks down at her hands where she holds a plate of two fish, alluding to the biblical story of Feeding the 5,000, in which Jesus performs a miracle of feeding 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread. Continuing with the biblical metaphors, the figure is veiled, suggesting her humility before God. Due to the subject’s steadfast faith, she appears untroubled by the encroaching storms or her barren surroundings. Instead, we see that she is anchored by her faith in God and his promise of an abundant life.
Frederick D. Jones was born in 1913 in Raleigh, North Carolina, and spent the majority of his early childhood in Georgetown, South Carolina. After relocating with his family to Atlanta, Georgia, Jones studied under renowned artist Hale Woodruff.
After high school, Jones relocated to Chicago to study at the Art Institute of Chicago. While in Chicago he became a regular fixture in the South Side Community Center, where he worked alongside some of the most prominent African American artists of the time, including Charles White, Eldzier Cortor, Charles Sebree, Margaret Burroughs and Gordon Parks. After the war, Jones returned to Chicago to help direct the Southside Community Center. In 1988, Jones was chosen by the Smithsonian Institute to participate in the American Oral Art History Program through which he helped contribute to the little-documented history of African American artists. The artist passed in 1996.
To read more about this painting and others by Frederick D. Jones, check out Shantay Robinson’s thoughtful article for Black Art in America, titled “Depicting the Harshest Realities in the Most Beautiful Ways: The Art of Frederick D. Jones.”
Image: Frederick D. Jones (1914–2004), “Untitled (Woman With Fish),” Oil on canvas, c. 1945, 12 x 10 in.