Happy birthday Alma Thomas!



Alma Thomas (September 22, 1891 – February 24, 1978) was an African-American Expressionist artist and teacher. She spent much of her life and career in Washington, D.C. She is often thought of as a pioneer of her time as an African-American female artist.



Thomas was born in Columbus, Georgia to John Harris Thomas and Amelia Cantey Thomas. As a child, she always showed an interest in art, often making puppets and sculptures. After graduating high school, she studied kindergarten education at Miner Normal School. She went on to teach kindergarten in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Delaware. She then went to Howard University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Fine Arts in 1924.

She later went on to get her Masters in Art Education from Columbia University and continue studying painting at American University. It wasn't until she retired from teaching and began studying painting that she was recognized as a professional artist. She learned about about the Color Field movement at American, which heavily influenced her work.

Thomas' notable works include Watusi (Hard Edge) (1963),


Wind and Crepe Myrtle Concerto (1973),


and Sky Light (1973).



In 1971, Thomas' work was shown at the exhibit Contemporary Black Artists in America at the Whitney Museum in New York, making her the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum.

Notable collections include Air View of a Spring Nursery (1966),



Breeze Rustling Through Fall Flowers (1968),



and Iris, Tulips, Jonquils and Crocuses (1969).



After her death in 1978, a retrospective was held at Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art.

Several of Thomas' works have been on display at the White House during the Obama presidency, partly chosen by the First Lady Michelle Obama herself.

Thomas' work can still be found in many major American museums, and she continues to be celebrated as an important figure at the nexus of race and art.


Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Monday, 22 September 2014
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