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This nearly square, abstract painting is filled with circles within circles, like nested rings, each of a single bright color against the ivory white of the canvas. Each ring is made up of a series of short, rectangular dashes, and some bands are narrower while others are a bit wider. The majority of the rings are crimson and brick red, and they are interspersed with bands of lapis blue, army green, and pale pink. One of two pumpkin-orange bands is the smallest, innermost ring at the center. There is one aqua-blue colored ring just inside a pale, shell-white ring, which is the first to get cropped by the edges of the canvas. A few red, green, and blue rings beyond the white band are only seen at the corners of the canvas.

Alma Thomas, Pansies in Washington, 1969, acrylic on canvas, Corcoran Collection (Gift of Vincent Melzac), 2015.19.144

In Depth: “Pansies in Washington” by Alma Thomas

In honor of African American History Month and Women’s History Month

Focus: The Collection

  • Thursday, February 20, 2020
  • 2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • East Building Atrium
  • Gallery Talks
  • In-person

Alma Thomas is known for her rhythmic allover abstractions inspired by nature, the Apollo lunar missions, and her neighborhood in Northwest Washington, DC. Thomas taught art at Shaw Middle School for more than 30 years, and her painting career blossomed in the 1960s alongside those of her friends Gene Davis, Sam Gilliam, and Kenneth Noland. Thomas achieved many firsts: she was the first graduate of Howard University’s fine arts department, the first African American woman to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the first African American woman whose work entered the permanent collection of the White House.

Nathalie Ryan, lecturer