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Adam and Eve,
William Edmondson (1874-1951)

View Artist Bio
13 x 30 x 12 inches
Status: Placed in a Private Collection

William Edmondson, a self-taught black sculptor whose works were always made from limestone, was born near Nashville, Tennessee.  His parents were slaves for the Edmondson and Compton families. During his early adulthood, the sculptor probably worked as a laborer and railroad porter. Next, he became an orderly and worked at the Nashville Women's Hospital from 1908 until 1931, when the facility closed and Edmondson lost his job.


Shortly thereafter, Edmondson explained that he had received a very specific vision commanding him to pick up his "...tools and start to work on a tombstone." Edmondson recounted that he "looked up in the sky and right there in the noon daylight He hung a tombstone out for me to make." Working in his shed and using his own hand-fashioned tools, Edmondson began carving memorials which were commissioned by members of his church. Next, he added chiseled animals and human figures as well as angels and crucifixions to his repertoire. Edmondson related that first God had told him to make tombstones and then he told him to cut figures. In 1937, Edmondson became the first black artist to have a one-person exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Between 1939-1941, he was employed twice as an artist by the WPA's sculpture division. Edmondson's work has been exhibited at galleries and museums throughout the country and was included in the traveling exhibition, "Black Folk Art 1930-1980," presented by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


1451 River Road · Yemassee, SC 29945 · 843.412.8738
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