Thelma Streat, Girl with Bird

Thelma Johnson Streat, Girl with Bird, 1950, oil and collage on paper, 51.4 x 36.8 cm (Georgia Museum of Art, Athens)

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Key points

  • Streat’s small portrait of a young girl exhibits her abstracted style featuring simplified forms and bold, flat areas of color. This style is influenced by a number of sources, including her experience with mural painting and her study of the art of various indigenous cultures from around the world.
  • Streat was a visual artist, singer, dancer, choreographer, and ethnographer. Throughout her work, she celebrated and defended African American identity. She also addressed the universality of humans through references to the specificity of shared qualities of people across cultures, particularly people of color.

Go deeper

Read about Thelma Streat in the Oregon Encyclopedia 

Thelma Johnson Streat and Diega Rivera’s Pan American Unity Mural

Mapping a New Humanism in the 1940s: Thelma Johnson Streat between Dance and Painting” by Abbe Schriber in Arts 2020, vol. 9 no. 1, p. 7

Diego Rivera Mural Project (a collaboration between San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and City College of San Francisco)

See Streat’s Rabbit Man in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection

More to think about

Consider how this portrait feels both universal and specific at the same time. Share and debate your ideas with classmates.

Explore the diverse history of the United States through its art. Seeing America is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.