Forest Glade

Object Details

Thomas Hunster
Between 1875 and 1929
oil on canvas
33 1/16 × 48 1/16 in. (83.9 × 122 cm)
Frame: 55 3/16 × 40 9/16 × 2 3/16 in. (140.2 × 103.1 × 5.5 cm)
Autumn foliage emerges along a brook’s rocky banks in Forest Glade by Thomas Watson Hunster (1851-1929). Landscapes remained among Professor Hunster’s favorite subjects as he maintained an artistic practice while innovatively guiding art instruction in Washington, DC’s Black public schools from 1875-1922. Though he moved to the District intending to stay only until he earned enough to study in Paris, his career path curved like the stream in this oil painting when Superintendent George F.T. Cook recognized Professor Hunster’s promise and convinced him to teach drawing for the 1875-76 school year.
For the next forty-eight years, Professor Hunster cultivated opportunities for generations of students to learn how to draw, a skill that he viewed as fundamental for understanding the world. He developed, and constantly refined, a curriculum that incorporated art at every grade level, from kindergarten through Miner Normal School’s teacher training program. Students studied nature by drawing live plants, birds, and bugs from a collection that he curated for the classroom. Lessons in geography, architecture, engineering, and history flowed from pencils and pastels as students sketched buildings in the nation’s capital, as well as designed and built their own. His visionary leadership also meant the city’s Black public schools offered industrial and manual arts classes eight years before its white public schools. Most art galleries and museums banned African American visitors at the time, so Professor Hunster created a museum within Miner Normal School and elevated the work of pupils and peers alike through well-received annual art shows.
After retiring in 1922, Professor Hunster continued to paint and exhibit his artwork until his death on August 24, 1929. His legacy extends to thousands of students, some of whom became notable artists and art educators themselves, like Alma W. Thomas and William N. Buckner, Jr. Mr. Buckner’s safeguarding of his mentor’s paintings for decades attests to his regard for their relationship as well as the artwork’s enduring beauty. He donated this painting to the Anacostia Community Museum, where it appeared in an exhibit and accompanying biography about another dedicated District educator, Dr. Anna Julia Cooper, who served as principal of M Street High School (now Dunbar).
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Anacostia Community Museum Collection
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Anacostia Community Museum
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