June Kelly Gallery

Alma Woodsey Thomas

Shells and Fruit, 1956
Oil on linen, 25 x 33 inches
Signed lower right

During the 1960s, Alma Thomas emerged as an exuberant colorist, abstracting shapes and patterns from the trees and flowers around her.  Her new palette and technique—considerably lighter and looser than in her earlier representational works and dark abstractions—reflected her long study of color theory and the watercolor medium.

Alma Thomas (1891-1978) was inspired by the garden outside her home in Washington, DC, and painted images that suggest light flickering through leaves and petals, a colorful abstract mosaic.  She used dabs and strokes of paint to express the new colors she saw through the window whenever the plants moved in the wind.

She was a colorist; she drew her inspiration from her garden, her flower box, and nature.  Her style was controlled and refined, her brushwork heavy.  “Color is life,” Thomas said in 1979 in Women Artists in Washington Collections.  “Light reveals to us the spirit and living soul of the world through colors.”

As an artist who began her “serious painting” at the age of 70 and had her first major exhibition at age 80, Thomas’s work reflected a lifetime in art.  She was an art teacher for 35 years and studied and assimilated the styles of artists she admired, merging them with her own profoundly independent vision.

Her work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art (both in New York), as well as The Phillips Collection, National Gallery of Art, the Corcoran, National Museum of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture museums in Washington, DC; Columbus Museum, Georgia; Fort Wayne Museum, Indiana, and the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton.


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