THELMA JOHNSON STREAT (1911 - 1959) Meatpacking House.
Watercolor on paper, circa 1944-45. 787x1663 mm; 31x65 1/2 inches.
Provenance: estate of the artist; thence by descent to the current owner.
This striking mural study is an extraodinarily large paper maquette that has survived from the artist's post-WPA period. Streat was one of the few artists to paint directly with Diego Rivera on his Pan-American Unity mural at the 1940 Golden Gate Exposition. The state supervisor of the WPA project, Beatrice Judd Ryann, described them at work on the mural: "Rivera stands high up on the scaffold, his awkward bulk emphasized by the color girl, Thelma Streat, beside him, tall and slim in her blue jeans."
The artist developed a number of studies and maquettes that were submitted designs for mural projects after she left San Francisco. The artist's estate also includes the large drawing or mural cartoon The Negro in Professional Life that was entered to a juried contest at the South Side Community Art Center in Chicago in 1944. Newspapers described a series of 12 more murals. According to Judy Bullington, Streat's work tied for first place. A 1945 article in The Oregonian newspaper sheds more light on this educational series and describes what Streat was planning: "Her plan is simple. Through the medium of murals painted with a simplicity which will have appeal to all children, regardless of race or creed, exactly what her people contribute to industry." In addition to a Chicago and New York mural, the article describes a Portland group "showing the Negro woman in Industry." This study was also featured in the August 24, 2009 "WPA Mural Studies" episode of the PBS television show History Detectives (Season 7, Episode 9). Bullington pp. 97-99.