Abstraction: Birds, 1952

Gouache on Paper

Mary Leath Thomas


Mary Thomas graduated from Georgia State College and received her master’s degree from Duke University in 1935. She spent the two subsequent years at Woman’s College (UNCG), where she studied under the well-known artist, Gregory Ivy. Thomas later returned to teach at Woman’s College between 1938-1944. She was the first wife of Howard Thomas, one of the leading abstract painters of the Southeast and also represented in the Weaver Collection.

Also an abstract painter, Thomas’ earlier works showed her preoccupation with birds. Abstraction: Birds depicts the combination of her two passions, abstraction and nature, painted in a restrained and subtle order. Gregory Ivy presented a memorial exhibition of her work at the Weatherspoon Art Gallery following her death in 1959. He wrote of her work, “Unexpected use of the precise, yet free geometric shapes achieves a contrast with the color and texture which lends an individual quality of quietness and depth.”

Thomas’s work is represented in permanent collections in Richmond, Atlanta, Savannah, Charleston, Raleigh and Greensboro, as well as other art centers and in private collections. The U.S. State Department purchased three of her works in 1957. These are now displayed in American embassies abroad.