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A sweeping retrospective of Alma W. Thomas’s wide-reaching artistic practice that sheds new light on her singular search for beauty:
Achieving fame in 1972 as the first Black woman to mount a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Alma W. Thomas (1891–1978) is known for her large abstract paintings filled with irregular patterns of bright colors. This insightful reassessment of Thomas’s life and work reveals her complex and deliberate artistic existence before, during, and after the years of commercial and critical success, and describes how her innovative palette and loose application of paint grew out of a long study of color theory. Essays trace Thomas’s journey from semirural Georgia to international recognition and situate her work within the context of the Washington Color School and creative communities connected to Howard University.
Featuring rarely seen theatrical designs, sculpture, family photographs, watercolors, and marionettes, this volume demonstrates how Thomas’s pursuit of beauty extended to every facet of her life—from her exuberant abstractions to the conscientious construction of her own persona through community service, teaching, and gardening.