Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


A Vote for Alma Thomas

Last week a friend and I were talking about art and the White House. Often first families have the opportunity to borrow works from our national collections, and we enjoyed speculating about what paintings, drawings or sculpture we might use in the private quarters if given the chance. Just to build on recent blog posts that have highlighted abstract art mixed with traditional furniture, I thought it would be fun to cast a vote for Alma Thomas' Red Rose Cantata. (Pretending the National Gallery could loan the painting.)

Thomas had close ties to Washington, D.C. At age 15 she moved with her family from Columbus, Georgia to the nation's capitol, and she taught for 35 years at Shaw Junior High. Essentially she put her artistic career on hold for her students, waiting until the 1960s to immerse herself in art.

The National Gallery explains that Thomas "drew upon all her sensory, childhood memories of rich vegetation, her own garden, the formal plantings of the capital city, and the musical sounds of nature to develop a painting style that gained her mainstream attention." The rhythmic arrangement of brushstrokes shown here suggests musical intervals, hence the use of the word "cantata" in her title. Currently this painting is included in the online tour, Selected African American Artists at the National Gallery of Art.

Alma Thomas
Red Rose Cantata, 1973
Gift of Vincent Melzac

Related reading:
Deborah Needleman's op-ed piece for the NY Times. (Refers to public spaces and White House history not private quarters.)

BTW: Mark your calendar for these related NGA lectures:


A Historical Overview
February 8 at 2 p.m.
Jacqueline Francis, independent scholar

Preserving the Legacy of Excellence
February 15 at 2 p.m.
Raymond J. McGuire, collector, in conversation with Ruth Fine, curator of special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art

The Art of Collecting—An Interview with Harmon and Harriet Kelley
February 22 at 2 p.m.
Harmon and Harriet Kelley, collectors, in conversation with Deborah Willis, university professor and chair, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University


Ivy Lane said...

The Red Rose Cantata painting is beautiful. Wouldn't it also be fabulous in fabric?!

I do wonder what works of art the Obama's will have in their private quarters...

Style Court said...

Hi Ivy -- this would be cool interpreted as fabric! I think it would be such a dream to choose art from those museums and live with them for 4 years.