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Often thought of as a pioneer of her time as an African-American female artist...
In 1972, she became the first African American woman artist to mount a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
An African American artist who was a successful Washington avant-garde painter despite the barriers presented by her age, race and gender.
Born in 1891, in Columbus, Georgia. she was a teacher, painter and art educator. She lived and worked primarily in Washington, DC where she became known as a force in the Washington Color School. In 1906, her family relocated to Washington because of the racial violence in Georgia and the superior public schools in DC. She grew up in Logan Circle (Washington, DC) and died in 1978 living in the same house that her family moved into upon their arrival in Washington.
At 55, Thomas went back to school at American University, taking Jacob Kainen’s abstract painting classes. His work was considered radical! Thomas switched from realism to abstract patterns of colorful geometric forms when Color Field Painting was still in its infancy. Between 1950-60, she took courses in creative painting and color theory at American University, where many of the Washington artists were teachers. Thomas incorporated aspects of their styles such as strong design, large-scale format, and pure colors, into her abstractions. However, she favored a more gestural style, drawing pencil lines, which are usually visible in her finished work and showing active brushstrokes.
"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.”
-Alma Thomas, 1970