Red Rose Cantata, Alma Thomas


One way I've been finding new art has been looking at the National Gallery of Art's Collection Highlights page.

That led me to this lovely work by Alma Thomas: Red Rose Cantata.

I'd never heard of Alma Thomas before, and I was struck by the way she uses color - sometimes using several distinct colors on a canvas (the rainbow circle of Pansies in Washington, the thick and thin stripes of Autumn Drama) and other times devising space and variation from a single color, as with Red Rose Cantata and the 1973 Untitled in blue.

Looking at this work made me ponder, as non-representational art so often does: What was the artist thinking about when she first came up with the ideas for this piece? How much was pre-envisioned and how much was exploration? If I were trying to create this piece, to see and think as Thomas did, what would guide me to make this stroke oblique, to leave a bit of extra space around these strokes? How did it look to her, a foot from her face, as she was creating it? (It's a large work - a little over 4' x 5'. I would love to see it up close, in person, stand right in front of it and really study the choices behind the strokes.)

I really like the familiar in art - I like representational art, images I can recognize, expressions of beautiful landscapes and scenes. But I also love works that are completely new to me, that open all the questions of what art is and can be, how we can see, and how we can show others new visions.


a small preview of Red Rose Cantata, by Alma Thomas, a series of red paint brushstrokes