Alma Thomas, b. 1891


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         Alma Woodsey Thomas was born in Columbus, Georgia in 1891. The Thomas family moved to Washington, D.C. in 1907 to seek refuge from racial violence in the South and to give their children better educational opportunities. In 1924, she was the first graduate of Howard University’s School of Fine Arts. After graduating, she became an art teacher at Shaw Junior High School until her retirement in 1960.

Thomas was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. In 1978, Thomas passed away at the age of eighty-six.

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The Eclipse, Alma W Thomas, 1970, acrylic on canvas

         After her retirement, she was able to dedicate herself to what she referred to as more “serious painting.” Thomas developed her true voice as an artist at the age of 70. Her early art had been realistic and while in this new discovery her signature style of colorful abstraction arose. 

She may not be a household name, but Alma Thomas made many significant contributions in the 20th century art world with her use of color and unique style.

Alma Thomas loved children and she had an important role in art education. But, she also loved to learn. She was interested in space programs and she had an important role in art education. But, she also loved to learn. She was interested in space programs, and she often painted from satellite photographs.

Source: wiki and The Annex

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Alma Thomas working in her studio, ca. 1968

        Thomas was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. In 1978, Thomas passed away at the age of eighty-six. Posthumously, a retrospective exhibition of her work was held at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American Art. Her paintings have been exhibited at the White House three times and today her work can be found in many major museums.

“Through color, I have sought to concentrate on beauty and happiness, rather than on man’s inhumanity to man.” ― Alma Woodsey Thomas, Alma W. Thomas: A Retrospective of the Paintings