Alma Thomas


Alma Woodsey Thomas (September 22, 1891 – February 24, 1978) was an African-American artist and teacher who lived and worked in Washington, D.C., and is now recognized as a major American painter of the 20th century. Thomas is best known for the "exuberant", colorful, abstract paintings that she created after her retirement from a 35-year career teaching art at Washington's Shaw Junior High School.

Thomas, who is often considered a member of the Washington Color School art movement but alternatively classified by some as an Expressionist, earned her teaching degree from University of the District of Columbia (known as Miner Normal School at the time). She was the first graduate of Howard University's art department, and maintained connections to that university through her life. She achieved success as an African-American female artist despite the segregation and prejudice of her time.

Thomas's reputation has continued to grow since her death. Her paintings are displayed in notable museums and collections, and they have been the subject of several books and solo museum exhibitions. In 2021, a museum sold Thomas's painting Alma's Flower Garden in a private transaction for $2.8 million.

Wikidata identifier


View the full Wikipedia entry

Information from Wikipedia, made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Accessed May 23, 2024.


Born in Columbus, Georgia in 1891, Alma Thomas's family moved to Washington, D.C. when Thomas was a teenager. She graduated from Howard University's art department in 1924, then taught middle school. While working as a teacher, Thomas earned a master's degree in art education from Columbia University. During her fifties, Thomas took more painting classes at American University, and in 1972 she became the first Black woman to receive a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She did not subscribe to a school or discipline, but her work is closely related to the Washington Color School.

Country of birth

United States


Artist, painter, teacher

ULAN identifier



Alma Thomas, Alma Woodsey Thomas, Alma W. Thomas

View the full Getty record

Information from the Getty Research Institute's Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License. Accessed May 23, 2024.