After serving in the Air Force during WWII, James Thomas studied art at the Corcoran School of Art, the Art Students League, and George Washington University from the late 1940s and early 1950s. By the mid-1960s he had found his artistic focus: collages and assemblages. It was with these media that he reached his own artistic heights. He struggled with depression and alcoholism throughout his life and the grittiness of collages and assemblages allowed him to explore these personal struggles. Thomas was also living through an explosively dynamic time in the art world, and he was almost certainly influenced by the work of Robert Rauschenberg, Sari Dienes, and the Arte Povera movement in Italy. He integrated the flattened and crushed refuse of American consumer culture and detritus of everyday life into intensely personal, dark explorations of his experiences and inner emotional turmoil.