Urgent Museum Notice

Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses

Close up of Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses

Abstract painting composed of brightly colored, lozenge-shaped brushstrokes in vertical stripes of navy, purple, turqouise, yellow, orange and red. The overall effect is as if the painting was collaged out of torn pieces of paper, with the white of the canvas showing through.

Alma Woodsey Thomas, Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses, 1969; Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 50 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © Estate of Alma Woodsey Thomas; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses
Alma Woodsey Thomas

Alma Woodsey Thomas developed her signature abstract painting style in her late 70s, after spending more than three decades teaching art in a Washington, D.C., junior high school. Characterized by brightly colored, lozenge-shaped brushstrokes arranged in long bands or dense, puzzle-like patterns, the style broke significantly with Thomas’s earlier realistic paintings. For all their apparent spontaneity, paintings like Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses reflect deliberate planning by Thomas. She often created watercolor sketches and used free-hand pencil marks on the canvas as a guide, some of which are still visible.

Thomas knew of her contemporaries Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Sam Gilliam who formed the Washington Color School movement, and they shared her interest in the optical effects of color. Yet Thomas’s paintings are distinct in that they were inspired, shaped, and continually refreshed by her direct experience of nature. She studied the hues, patterns, and movement of trees and flowers in her yard and Washington area parks. She was also fascinated by the U.S. space program’s Apollo lunar missions, which presented new paradigms of space and depth that Thomas interpreted in her paintings.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Alma Woodsey Thomas
  • Title

    Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses
  • Date

    1969
  • Medium

    Acrylic on canvas
  • Dimensions

    60 x 50 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay
  • Photo Credit

    © Estate of Alma Woodsey Thomas; Photo by Lee Stalsworth
  • On Display

    Yes