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Alma Thomas

Artist 182

Alma Thomas



Alma Woodsey Thomas (born 1891) was an African-American Expressionist painter and art educator best known for her colorful abstract paintings.

She lived and worked primarily in Washington, D.C. and The Washington Post described her as a force in the Washington Color School.

Thomas remains an influence to young and old as she was a cornerstone for the Fine Arts at Howard University, started a successful art career later in her life, and took major strides during times of segregation as an African-American female artist.

She was born in Columbus, Georgia, moved to Washington, D.C., with her family as a child to avoid the racial violence in the American South.

Interested in art from a young age, Thomas was the first student to graduate from Howard University with a degree in fine art. There, she studied under Loïs Mailou Jones while adopting an aesthetic of her own.

Thomas’ style pulls elements from Abstract Expressionism and the Washington Color School, drawing from the splendor of nature to create nonrepresentational canvases that sing with soft vitality.

Famously, Thomas was most inspired by her garden and would watch with fascination as the scenery changed around her.

“I got some watercolors and some crayons, and I began dabbling,” she said. “Little dabs of color that spread out very free ... that’s how it all began. And every morning since then, the wind has given me new colors through the windowpanes.”

She had her first exhibition at 75 years old, later becoming the first woman to have a solo exhibition at The Whitney.

"Creative art is for all time and is therefore independent of time. It is of all ages, of every land, and if by this we mean the creative spirit in man which produces a picture or a statue is common to the whole civilized world, independent of age, race and nationality; the statement may stand unchallenged."

- Thomas 1970

Sources Consulted:…/e…/us_58a499b2e4b094a129f1513c/amp…


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