U.S. National Arboretum
The U.S. National Arboretum served as inspiration for Alma Thomas's work, including "Arboretum Presents White Dogwood," 1972. The Dogwood Collection at the Arboretum slopes downward, leading to the Anacostia River. Mature dogwoods bloom throughout the spring and summer months beginning in March. Thomas spoke of both the Arboretum's dogwoods and azaleas in particular as influences on her work.
Arboretum Presents White Dogwood
Dogwood Trail at the Arboretum
Dogwood Blooming at the Arboretum
Photograph of Alma Thomas at the Arboretum, 1970
Back of photograph of Alma Thomas at the Arboretum
Backstory and Context
Established in 1927 by an Act of Congress, The U.S National Arboretum is a specialized botanical garden featuring trees and plants both native to Washington D.C and from a variety of global environments. Located in Northeast Washington, D.C., the Arboretum is 446 acres in size with nearly 10 miles of winding roadways. The Garden allows us all to see and admire the beauty of nature in a more controlled environment with a focus on research and education.
Thomas’s painting “Arboretum Presents White Dogwood” is an abstract painting with a rhythmic application of rectangles. The rectangles are laid over a dark background in a repetitive geometric form. The painting shares similar composition with some of her most famous pieces. Thomas stated that she visited the Arboretum “not to paint but to get impressions. A friend of mine goes there and gets every leaf.” She wanted her paintings to evoke the feeling of being at the Arboretum surrounded by the plants that shape the landscape.
Thomas uses color as form, helping her to construct impressions of nature. Here, and in many of her paintings, she shows us how she views and experiences flora. Through her abstractions, the viewer is able to see the process Thomas used to translate her experience of nature to the canvas.
Berry, I. (2016). Alma Thomas. New York, NY: The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College and DelMonico Books.