Object Image

Light Blue Nursery

The chromatic impact of Light Blue Nursery is dramatic. Small blocks of irregularly configured primary colors dance across a bright white surface in horizontal rows that echo the ordered energy of a formal garden. Secondary and tertiary hues - pinks, purples, and greens - serve as borders and accents, reflecting Thomas's conviction that she could play with perception and optical interaction in images drawn from her visual experience of the natural world. Although seemingly constructed of spontaneous strokes of the brush, the forms, like the colors, are thoughtfully calibrated.

African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012

Luce Center Label

During the 1960s, African American painter Alma Thomas emerged as an exuberant colorist and member of the Washington Color Field School, abstracting shapes and patterns from the trees and flowers around her and creating works that shimmer with color. "Color is life," Thomas once explained. "Light reveals to us the spirit and living soul of the world through colors." She produced some of her most important works in this decade, including Light Blue Nursery. The rhythmic horizontal lines of bright blues, reds, yellows, and greens are offset by white areas of untouched raw canvas, creating a jewel-like mosaic.

Credit: Gift of the artist

1968
Acrylic on canvas
124.4 x 121.5cm
1970.324
Image and text: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2024

Where you'll find this

Deepen your knowledge