COLOR FIELD: Alma Thomas spent 38 years as a Washington, D.C., public school art teacher before her painting career took off. She was a key figure of the Washington Color School visual art movement thanks to her signature abstract work inspired by nature. From her window, she enjoyed watching the changing patterns that light created on her trees and flower garden.
In 1972, when Thomas was in her 80s, she was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
The Smithsonian holds many examples of Thomas’ art, including this 1971 color field painting, “Earth Sermon – Beauty, Love And Peace,” at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The Archives of American Art digitized the Alma Thomas papers in 2018.
Image Credit: Alma Thomas, “Earth Sermon – Beauty, Love And Peace” (1971), acrylic on canvas,72 x 52 1/8 in. (182.9 x 132.3 cm). Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., The Martha Jackson Memorial Collection: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David K. Anderson, 1980.
The Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative is supported in part thanks to people like you. Make a gift now and help us amplify women's voices, reach the next generation, and empower women everywhere.