ALMA W. THOMAS (1891 - 1978) Etude in Brown (Saint Cecilia at the Organ).
Oil on linen canvas, circa 1958. 1117x711 mm; 44x28 inches.
Provenance: acquired directly from the artist, Washington, DC; Harold R. Hart, New York; private collection, Washington, DC (1987). Harold Hart was executor of the Alma Thomas estate and former director of the Martha Jackson Gallery, New York. With a copy of a certificate authenticity signed by Harold Hart and dated November 10, 1987.
Etude in Brown or Saint Cecilia at the Organ is a significant and early oil painting by the artist - a large, transitional work from the mid- to late 1950s period when Alma Thomas developed her abstract voice.
In Etude in Brown, Alma Thomas' expressive composition is almost but not completely abstract. While the composition is dominated by a towering abstraction of warm colors broken up by passages in white, the small seated figure of Saint Cecilia appears in the foreground. Other early abstract paintings share a clustered group of small figurative shapes against a similar patchwork, vertical composition of colors - see Untitled, 1957, lot 79 in Swann Auction Galleries auction of February 19, 2008, and Untitled, 1958, illustrated in the 2016 museum retrospective Alma Thomas catalogue. Alma Thomas studied with Jacob Kainen, an Abstract Expressionist painter and printmaker, at American University in the fall of that year, and exhibited her work in Contemporary American Painting, part of the Colllege Arts Traveling Service at Howard University Gallery of Art. Berry/Haynes p. 21 and 208.