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ALMA THOMAS

Alma Woodsey Thomas (1891-1978) enjoyed her first solo show at age 68, and was later recognized at the National Gallery, the White House and in retrospectives at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Whitney Museum, where she was the first African-American woman to have a solo exhibit.

Raised in Georgia, Thomas moved with her family to Washington, DC and into the house where she lived for 70 more years.   In 1924, she was the first woman to earn a degree in fine arts from Howard University, and then taught art at Shaw Junior High School for 36 years until retiring in 1960 to paint full-time.  In 1943, Thomas helped found the Barnett-Aden Gallery, which was Washington’s first gallery to show works by white and African-American artists together.

Thomas is best known for her large canvases filled with dense patterns and bright color.  While her mature work has been compared to Byzantine mosaics and Seurat’s pointillism, today many associate her with the Washington Color School.   By her own account, she was inspired by natural phenomena, such as hollyhock shadows, cherry blossoms and the atmospheric effects of light. 

 

 
Snoopy Sees a Daybreak on Earth, 1970

Acrylic on canvas
40" x 35"

 


Etude in Brown - St. Cecelia at the Organ, circa 1956-58
Oil on linen, 44" x 28"

 

 


Title unknown 1, 1977
Watercolor and pencil on paper
31" x 40"

 


Title unknown 2, 1977
Watercolor and pencil on paper
31 x 40 inches

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