Black Ancestors : Thelma Johnson Streat


Feb 28, 2009

Thelma Johnson Streat (1912-1959)

Thelma Johnson Streat was a multi-talented African American artist who focused on ethnic themes in her work. Born on August 29, 1912, in Yakima, Washington, to James and Gertrude Johnson, she moved with her family to Portland where she graduated from Washington High School. Streat began painting at the age of seven and received art training at the Museum Art School in the mid-1930s. She was a frequent local exhibitor who worked in tempera, oil and watercolor.​

Streat moved to San Francisco in 1938 and continued her career working in Works Progress Administration art programs. She participated in exhibitions at the De Young Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Art, and others. In 1942, her painting Rabbit Man was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art. She then began working in mural format and produced works that attracted attention for their intense content, such as her 1943 Death of a Black Sailor, which drew threats from the Ku Klux Klan....


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