Louis Edward Jones moved to Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the mid-1920s and became the area’s virtual artist-in-residence until his death in 1958. During his lifetime he saw the town emerge as a major tourist destination, and his evocative oil paintings and etchings no doubt fueled this development.

Jones was born in Rush Township in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, a small town in the northeastern part of the state. He spent his early years in other locales in the area, including Philadelphia while he was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, probably around 1908. One of his instructors was Birge Harrison, a tonalist landscape painter who also conducted summer workshops in Woodstock, New York, under the auspices of the Art Students League. With Harrison’s encouragement, Jones spent 1917 to 1925 in Woodstock enjoying the foothills of the Catskill mountains made famous by America’s first landscape artists, known as the Hudson River School painters. Woodstock was a lively art community which included Lucile Blanch and Alfred Hutty, among others.

In 1926 Jones settled in Gatlinburg, the same year that Great Smoky Mountain National Park was established, and in 1934, North Carolina and Tennessee each donated 300,000 acres. During the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps built bridges and campgrounds and readied hiking trails for the official opening of the park in 1940. Even earlier, there were hiking and hunting club members who frequented the area. In 1933 Jones built the Cliff Dwellers Shop, a chalet style wood and stone structure which functioned as his home, gallery, and studio. Why he chose that name may have been derived from the fact that it was nestled against a rocky hill, not unlike the cliff dwellers in the southwest who carved homes into the sides of canyons. It was also the title of a 1913 painting by George Bellows showing crowded tenements in the lower east side of Manhattan, and The Cliff Dwellers name was also adopted by a cultural organization in Chicago. Rudolph Ingerle was a member there, and like Jones, he painted scenic views of the Smoky Mountains, earning the moniker “Painter of the Smokies,” which is equally applicable to Jones. Whether or not they ever met is unclear. 

Much of Jones’ oeuvre consists of small oil paintings on board, which he may have done on site and because they could be reasonably priced and were easily transported—two attractive attributes for tourists. He depicted mountain vistas with layers of hills receding into the distance and scenes that emphasized colorful fall foliage. Around 1940 Jones took up etching, which would have also been easy for visitors to transport and, because he produced them in multiples, they could be purchased inexpensively. With his picturesque views in circulation along with word of mouth, the attendance at Great Smoky National Park rose steadily.

Louis Jones was an early proponent of the Smoky Mountains area of Tennessee, who through his art added much to the popularity of the region. He lived in Tennessee with his wife until his death in 1958.