Ms. Streat’s paintings have appeared in exhibits at such prestigious institutions as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), American Contemporary Gallery, Honolulu Academy of Art, San Francisco Museum of Art, DeYoung Memorial Museum, City of Paris Gallery, Art Institute of Chicago, and the Albany Institute of the History of Art.
Her most famous painting, “Rabbit Man,” is part of MoMA’s permanent collection.
During her years as a WPA artist, Streat worked with muralist Diego Rivera, sculptor Sargent Johnson, Ruben Kadish, and other notable figures of the San Francisco art scene.
Artist Diego Rivera: “The work of Thelma Johnson Streat is in my opinion one of the most interesting manifestations in this country at the present. It is extremely evolved and sophisticated enough to reconquer the grace and purity of African and American art.”
World personalities who have owned Ms. Streat’s work include actor Vincent Price, singer Roland Hayes, artist Diego Rivera, actress Fanny Brice, dancer Katherine Dunham, and actress Paulette Goddard.
In addition to being a prolific painter, Ms. Streat traveled to Haiti, Mexico and Canada to study traditional dance and culture.
She was best known and loved for her work with children. Throughout her career, she performed interpretive dance, sang, told folk tales, taught, and showed her paintings to thousands of youngsters in Europe, Canada, and the United States.
With her husband, playwright John Edgar Kline, Ms. Streat founded Children’s City near Honolulu to introduce children to art and to the value of cultural diversity.
Ms. Streat is included in “Who’s Who in American Art: 1940-41,” “Encyclopedia of the World,” “Reference Library of Black America,” “Who Was Who in American Art: 1898-1947,” "African-American Art," and featured in the summer 2005 issue of American Art magazine and numerous other publications. Please see the Sources page for more information.
Thelma Johnson Streat Biography
THELMA BEATRICE JOHNSON was born in
The family lived in
After graduating from
However, it was not until Thelma left
During the WPA era, Streat met and worked with sculptor Sargent Johnson, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, and other notables in the
In 1941, her paintings were exhibited at the
Streat’s paintings were also on exhibit at the Raymond and
Her painting “Robot” appeared in “The International Exhibition of Water Color” at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1943. Also in that same year, Streat created her celebrated “Death of A Black Sailor.”
Actor Vincent Price owned the Little Gallery in
From March 13 –
During the mid 1940s, Streat moved to
By 1946, Streat sought a new avenue of expression: interpretive dance. She returned to the
In the spring, she worked on the Children’s Visual Education Project in both
According to writer/historian Sharon F. Patton, by 1947, Streat was one of only four African-American abstract painters to have solo shows in
Her painting “The Boy and the Bird” was inspired by one of the children attending classes at Children’s City.
Streat said, “If I can in any small way nourish the minds of the island children, if I can enlarge their horizons, then the purpose of my work is fulfilled.”
Ms. Streat knew and visited former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Ms. Roosevelt mentions a 1951 visit from Ms. Streat in her Eleanor Roosevelt's Daily Journal
The next few years were exciting and busy for Streat. She embarked on a world tour, where she enjoyed six to eight month stays in
While Streat was abroad, her work was also receiving favorable reviews in the States. “Rabbit Man” appeared in a group show titled “Contemporary Negro Art” at Hester House in Houston (Texas) from June 26 – July 17, 1949, then went on to a group show at The United Negro College Fund offices from January 19 - June 1, 1950.
Streat and her husband pursued their interest in folklore and the common threads of all cultures. The coupled devoted much of 1958 and 1959 to traveling across
“The principal aim of ‘Children’s City’ is to eliminate those prejudices which are the outgrowth of misinformation concerning peoples of difference ethnic, economic, and cultural backgrounds through the medium of ‘scientific’ work, folklore, and to cultivate human relations which are based on mutual understanding and common interest.”
In 1959, Streat began studying anthropology at UCLA (
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the art, films, textile designs, illustrations, murals, and contributions of Thelma Johnson Streat. In 1991, her paintings were included in a group exhibit at the Kenkeleba Gallery (
For more information on Ms. Streat, please see the Sources section of this web site. If you have any questions or would like additional material, please contact The Project.