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Still Life

Alma W. Thomas

Still Life, 1956

Oil on Canvas


Gift of Joseph N. Gennett 

Thomas was the first African American woman artist to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York. A painter, sculptor, and craft artist who produced a number of marionettes, Thomas is known for the highly colored, abstract style of her late career. She developed close relationships with the Washington Color Painters, Morris Louis, Gene Davis, and Jacob Kainen, and found an accepting circle for her style. Thomas was included in the major Whitney Museum show, Contemporary Black Artists in America, in 1971. 

Condition of the Artwork (2009): 

The canvas has become slightly slack and has an uneven, rippled appearance. There are fine, broad scale heavily cupped age cracks scattered overall. The cracking is severe enough to distort the surface plane of the canvas. Some areas of paint at age cracking are detaching from the canvas. There has been a ½”wide x ¼” high paint loss in the central foreground. There is a 3” circle of severely detaching paint in the green upper background. 

Great care must be taken to prevent paint loss before it goes to a conservation studio. The thick, overly shiny, yellowed varnish was added after the painting was placed in this frame. The frame was painted white after the painting was installed in it, so lines of white paint from the frame have been slopped onto the paint layer. One bit of white framing paint along the left edge has been partially painted over with a green that does not match the original paint. 

Conservation Treatment Proposed: 

  • Locally consolidate significant insecure paint with a conservation quality adhesive.
  • Remove/reduce the thick, shiny, varnish layer with the appropriate cleaning agents.
  • Remove/reduce the white frame paint with the appropriate cleaning agents.
  • Apply an isolating layer of a conservation quality varnish.
  • Humidify and flatten face up on hot table. Line to new layer of canvas. If necessary to hold cupping flat, mount lined canvas on an epoxy infused, fiberglass panel. Remount on original stretcher.
  • Fill and inpaint paint losses with conservation quality materials.
  • Apply a conservation quality finishing varnish overall.
  • Fill and inpaint paint losses.
  • All materials used will be appropriate and conservation quality. All work will adhere to the highest standards of the field.

Estimated Cost of Treatment:  $4,500.00