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Alma Thomas

September 22, 1891 - February 24, 1978
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Alma Woodsey Thomas was an African American painter, best known for her abstract paintings and Expressionist style. Her exuberant work is noteworthy for their pattern, rhythm, color. She was born in Columbus, Georgia as the oldest of four children. When she was sixteen, her family moved to Washington D.C. to avoid the racial violence in the South and to seek new opportunities. In 1921, she entered Howard University becoming one of the first black woman to earn an art degree. In 1924, she became an art teacher in the public schools in Washington DC and continued for thirty-eight years until her retirement. Thomas would not be recognized as a professional artist until her retirement in 1960. She attended American University, where she began experimenting with Color Field paintings, which was inspired by Abstract Expressionism. Thomas’ style included color-filled, geometric abstraction of tessellated brushstrokes and possessed qualities similar to West African paintings a well as Byzantine mosaics.

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