Although Alma Thomas derived inspiration from the Color Field movement, she also departed from it, creating outlines freehand rather than with masking tape as many other members did. She was the first woman to have a solo exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the first woman to receive an MA in art education from Columbia University, and the first woman to achieve a BA in fine arts from Howard University. T
Today her work can be found in the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Two of her works were even placed in the White House when President Obama took office.
Although originally educated as an elementary teacher, Alma Thomas balanced her educational profession with her artistic one, eventually merging the two after retirement. As she matured, her work became less representative and more abstract. When the Washington Color School emerged in the 60s, Thomas embraced it and soon became one of America’s foremost Abstract Expressionists.
To categorize her as a Minimalist is too general, as her work melds Minimalism, Pointillism, native African influences and, occasionally, political influences. Her frequent use of opaque acrylic colors represented a dramatic departure from her old realism. Her canvases contained clusters of bold colors, seemingly random shapes and conveyed dramatic emotion. She named Matisse and Cezanne as her chief artistic influences, and considered her informal art education as important as her formal one.
Blue Abstraction, oil on canvas, 1961(Howard University Gallery of Arts, Washington, D.C.). http://venetianred.net/category/people-places/page/2/
Watusi (Hard Edge), acrylic on canvas, 1963 (Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.). http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/alma-woodsey-thomas/watusi-hard-edge-1963
Breeze Rustling through Fall Flowers, acrylic on canvas, 1968 (The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.) http://www.phillipscollection.org/research/american_art/artwork/Thomas-Breeze_Rustling.htm
Jupiter’s Glow, acrylic on canvas, 1974 (Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York City) http://www.michaelrosenfeldart.com/artists/alma-thomas-1891-1978
National Museum of Women in the Arts. “Alma Woodsey Thomas.” 2012. http://www.nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/alma-woodsey-thomas
Butler, Charles T. “Alma Thomas (1891-1978).” May 5, 2013. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/alma-thomas-1891-1978
The Spanierman Gallery. “Alma Woodsey Thomas (1891-1978).April 7, 1979.http://www.spaniermanmodern.com/inventory/T/Alma-Thomas/Alma-Woodsey-Thomas-artist-biography.htm