Alma Woodsey Thomas

The first African American woman artist to receive a solo exhibition at a major national arts institution—the Whitney Museum of American Art—Alma Thomas only began to seriously paint after she retired from thirty-eight years as a public school art teacher in Washington, DC. Although she is best-known for abstract canvases of vibrant color, Thomas’s earlier works reflect academic traditions and an interest in representational genre scenes of African Americans. Still Life with Mandolin demonstrates her efforts to master the concepts of depth, color, light, and shadow, incorporating styles of art historical predecessors such as Picasso, Matisse, and Cézanne. Here, Thomas opts for a reduction of forms reminiscent of Cubism, while her deft use of cohesive triadic colors allude to future chromatic experimentations.