Gouache, crayon and pencil on thin cardstock, circa 1945. 305x305 mm; 12x12 inches. Signed in pencil, lower right.
Provenance: private New York collection.
This is the first known painting and only the second work of art by this artist to come to auction. Swann Galleries sold her color screenprint, Black Kings, at auction on February 17, 2009.
Thelma Johnson Streat was a multi-talented artist who focused on ethnic themes in her work. Born on August 29, 1912 in Yakima, WA, Streat began painting at the age of seven and received art training at the Portland Museum Art School in the mid-1930s. Streat moved to San Francisco in 1938 and began working in Works Progress Administration art programs. She participated in exhibitions at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Art, and others. Her gouache, Rabbit Man, 1941, was the first painting by an African-American woman to be exhibited and purchased by the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1942. She also painted murals that attracted attention for their intense content, such as her 1943 Death of a Black Sailor, which drew threats from the Ku Klux Klan.
Her work is found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Art, and the Honolulu Academy of the Arts. The Portland Art Museum gave a retrospective of her work in 2003.