The Eclipse

Alma Thomas, American, 1891–1978
The Eclipse, 1970
Acrylic on canvas
Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of the artist

The year 1969 brought not only a giant leap for humankind in science but also a giant leap for the artist Alma Thomas. The Eclipse is from her series “Space Paintings,” which includes at least fifteen works covering topics from rocket launches to sunsets. Thomas found her source of inspiration in daily life, and, although we cannot confirm that Thomas saw it, a total solar eclipse was visible in the United States on March 7, 1970. Thomas’s bright colors and bold circular patterns, coupled with her staccato brush strokes, lend her works a dynamic tone appropriate for the fleeting drama of a total eclipse and the emanating light of the solar corona. The painting’s asymmetrical composition enhances the scope and sense of movement. Although this Color Field abstraction resembles an eclipse, it was important to Thomas that her works remain non-representational; she once stated, “If this expression is non-representational it is difficult or . . . impossible to tell whether the artist is white or nonwhite.”

Laura Valenza, Campus Collections Assistant, Princeton University Art Museum