Alma Thomas (1891-1978) "Wind, Sunshine and Flowers", 1968.
Alma Woodsey Thomas was an African-American Expressionist painter and art educator, famous for her colourful abstract compositions combining pattern, rythm and colour.
Thomas started her higher education at Howard University in 1921, as a home economics student, but soon switched to the fine arts where she began to experiment with abstraction which had not yet reached the mainstream popularity in the States. In 1924, she became the first graduate from the university's Fine Arts programme as well as becoming one of the first African-American women to earn thebart degree. After her studies, Thomas immediatly began her teaching career and encouraged her students' appreciation of fine art. However, she was not yet done with studying too. In 1934, she earned a Master's Degree in art eduaction and in 1950, at the age of 59, Thomas enrolled in American University to study art history and painting which she did for ten years. It was not until her retirement in 1960, when Thomas dedicated herself solely to painting, joined the Colour Field movement and was recognised as a professional of the newly popular abstarct painting. In 1972, at the age of 81, Thomas became the first African-American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Thomas remains a very important influence and inspiration to many artists fighting against ageism and racism. Not only she started a successful art career later in her life, but Thomas also made a major impact during the times of segregation as an African-American female artist. As the painter declared back in 1970:
"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."
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