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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 color of the canvas. Each ring is made up of a series of short, rectangular strokes and some bands are narrower while others are a bit wider. The majority of the rings are crimson and brick reds, and they’re interspersed with several bands of lapis blue, two army green rings, and two pale pink rings. The single pumpkin orange band is the smallest, innermost ring at the center. There is one aqua colored ring just inside the lone white ring, which is the first to get cut 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

  • Thursday, February 20, 2020
  • 2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • East Building Atrium

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