Abstraction No. 2

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  • Provenance

    Barnett-Aden Collection, Washington, DC
    Private Collection, Philadelphia (acquired from the above circa 1978)
    Dolan/Maxwell, Inc., Philadelphia
    Private Collection, Newark (acquired from the above in 1999)
    Dolan/Maxwell, Inc., Philadelphia

  • Catalogue Essay

    ALMA WOODSEY THOMAS
    Born 1891, Columbus, Georgia
    Died 1978, Washington, D.C.

    1934, MA Columbia University, New York
    1924 BFA, Howard University, Washington, D.C.

    A pioneer for African American and female artists alike, Alma Thomas developed a signature style that transcended categorization. Often associated with the Washington Color School, Thomas’ abstract painting practice references art historical movements spanning all the way from Byzantine mosaics to post-impressionist Pointillism to Abstract Expressionism.

    As the first recipient of a fine arts degree from Howard University in 1924, followed by a 35 year-long tenure as a public school teacher in Washington, D.C., Thomas was an avid supporter of the arts. For the benefit of her students, she would invite leading African American artists and architects to present their work, as well as embark on many field trips to local galleries and institutions. She was also a founding vice president of the Barnett-Aden Gallery in 1943, the first private art gallery in D.C. to exhibit works by artists of all races and backgrounds. As Washington Post writer Benjamin Forgey described of her passion, “Thomas never stopped looking at art or making it. She haunted museums in Washington and New York. She learned from the old masters but she also had an eye for the new. Apparently she couldn't pass by a good art book without buying it--her row house on 15th Street, where she lived and painted from the Howard days until she died, was stuffed with well-leafed volumes, old and new.”

    Beginning in 1950, Thomas took courses in creative painting and color theory at American University, where she would hone her signature style. Many of her paintings created in the late 1950s and early 1960s featured active, gestural strokes with varying densities, in contrast to those of her contemporaries such as Morris Louis who favored more uniform, softer color fields. Thomas’ watercolors from this period were often inspired by the view outside of her kitchen window, which doubled as her studio. In 1960, Thomas exhibited a selection of these small-scale compositions at the Dupont Circle Gallery in her first solo show at age 69. This was later followed by many more renowned exhibitions including one at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1972, marking the institution’s first-ever solo exhibition for an African American woman.

    As she famously declared in a 1970 interview, “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.”

  • Artist Bio

    Alma Woodsey Thomas

    American • 1891 - 1978


    A pioneer for African American and female artists alike, Alma Thomas developed a signature style that transcended categorization. Often associated with the Washington Color School, Thomas’ abstract painting practice references art historical movements spanning all the way from Byzantine mosaics to post-impressionist Pointillism to Abstract Expressionism. 

    As the first recipient of a fine arts degree from Howard University in 1924, followed by a 35 year-long tenure as a public school teacher in Washington, D.C., Thomas was an avid supporter of the arts. For the benefit of her students, she would invite leading African American artists and architects to present their work, as well as embark on many field trips to local galleries and institutions.

    Beginning in 1950, Thomas took courses in creative painting and color theory at American University, where she would hone her signature style. Many of her paintings created in the late 1950s and early 1960s featured active, gestural strokes with varying densities, in contrast to those of her contemporaries such as Morris Louis who favored more uniform, softer color fields. Thomas’ watercolors from this period were often inspired by the view outside of her kitchen window, which doubled as her studio. In 1960, Thomas exhibited a selection of these small-scale compositions at the Dupont Circle Gallery in her first solo show at age 69. 

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3

Abstraction No. 2

signed, titled and dated "Alma Thomas '60 Ab. No. 2" lower right
watercolor on paper
20 x 14 7/8 in. (50.8 x 37.8 cm.)
Executed in 1960.

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AMERICAN AFRICAN AMERICAN

New York Selling Exhibition 10 January - 8 February 2019