Real Estate: Alma Thomas Painting Sells for Record D.C. Amount at Weschler’s

While they’re still confirming this, Weschler’s Auctioneers and Appraisers believes they have achieved the highest auction record for any transaction in the D.C. Metro area with the sale of an Alma Thomas painting. The painting was estimated at $300,000-$500,000 and ended up selling for $1,250,000 ($1,487,000 including the buyer’s premium). 

The painting, called “Sparkling Dew on Spring Flowers,” is a work from 1968, inspired by Thomas’s beloved garden. It is signed “A.W. Thomas” and dated ’68 l.r., additionally signed Alma W. Thomas and inscribed with 1530 15th St. NW and numbered 3B on verso.  

Lately, more attention has been paid to Thomas’s legacy and place within the history of The Washington Color School and the talent connection to Howard University, particularly in teaching and artistic production. The painting was appraised at a fairly low (albeit accurate) rate in 2001 for estate purposes. The consignor’s mother, Eileen Shanahan, knew Thomas was a collectible artist but had no idea how big her legacy had grown in recent years. 

Portrait of a Lady (Alma Thomas), 1947 by Laura Wheeler Waring. Wikipedia.

The work was bought by Shanahan in 1968 or ’69. According to Weschler’s, the daughter remembered coming home from school and seeing the painting hanging over their mantel where it remained until she passed in 2001.  

For those unfamiliar with her, Shanahan was a second-generation Washingtonian who graduated from the Old Central High School (now Cardozo) and George Washington University. While at GWU, Shanahan became the first female editor-in-chief of the school newspaper The Hatchet. She later became a reporter for the Journal of Commerce and later The New York Times. Shanahan also served as press secretary for Joseph Califano during the Carter administration and was founding editor of Congressional Quarterly’s magazine “Governing.” Throughout her life, she made appearances on programs like “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation.” She was also a panelist in a 1976 presidential debate. 







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