The Southern California-based artists Jean Goodwin Ames and Arthur Ames were nationally known educators as well as prominent leaders in the enamels field. While husband and wife each enjoyed a unique artistic vision and distinctive approach to subject, style, and technique, their shared commitment to the medium heightened the profile of enameling in this country in the years immediately following World War II.
Born in Santa Ana, California in 1903, Jean Goodwin Ames studied at Pomona College from 1921 to 1923 and subsequently at the Art Institute of Chicago where she received her diploma in 1926. She later returned to Los Angeles and studied at UCLA and USC. She married Arthur Ames in 1940. An inspiring teacher, Jean Ames taught at Scripps College and the Claremont Graduate School from 1940 to 1962 and was chair of the art department at Claremont Graduate School from 1962 to 1969. In 1969 she was honored by the Claremont Graduate School for her lifelong commitment to teaching with the title professor emerita, which she held until her death in 1986.
Her fascination with enameling began when she saw an exhibition of Karl Drerup's work at Scripps College in 1941. By studying Drerup's plates, plaques and bowls, she developed a pictorial, Limoges-style approach to enameling and from about 1947 on, enameling became the artist’s preferred medium.
The work of Jean Ames, evoking the world of her idyllic childhood in rural California, is filled with imaginary characters, including angels and fantasy-inspired creatures. The artist stated that these idealized visions were at the very wellspring of her imagination. While she was a modernist, intrigued by abstract, formal issues, Ames admitted that her foremost interest was in the idealized subjects she depicted rather than in her abstract compositions and designs. She stated: "My orbit seems full of angels and lovely sprites, all mingling with enchanted birds and beasts. Although I see these images within their abstract design, they are more of a motivation and possibly more important to me than the abstract elements in which I interpret them."