Alma Woodsey Thomas. Untitled. c. 1968

Alma Woodsey Thomas Untitled c. 1968

  • Not on view

The vibrant strips of color that appear in Thomas’s paintings and drawings, each made from clearly delineated brush marks, were often inspired by foliage moving in the light as seen through the window of the artist’s home, in Washington, DC. Although influenced by these constantly changing patterns and tones, the final compositions and color juxtapositions arose from careful, exacting preparation. Thomas attached drawings like this one to her blank canvases as a compositional guide, a working tool for mapping her color choices. Made on multiple pieces of paper joined by tape and staples, the drawing reflects a process of development that allowed for movement and change.

Thomas’s joyous abstractions are the result of her lifelong engagement with visual art, but she did not begin exhibiting her work regularly until she was sixty years old. In 1924 she was the first student to receive a bachelor of science degree in fine arts from Howard University, and soon thereafter she began teaching art at Shaw Junior High School, where she would work for almost forty years. She retired in 1960 and had her first solo exhibition later that year. In 1972 she became the first black woman to have a solo exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Acrylic and pressure-sensitive tape on cut-and-stapled paper
19 1/8 x 51 1/2" (48.6 x 130.8 cm)
Gift of Donald B. Marron
Object number
Drawings and Prints

Installation views

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]m. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].