William Edmondson (American/Tennessee, 1874-1951), “Miss Lucy,” carved limestone sculpture depicting a standing woman, wearing a high collared dress and a carved locket, with long elaborately braided hair, holding a purse in one hand and a book, presumably The Bible, in the other. 15 1/2″ H x 4 3/4″ W x 8″ D. 28.4 lbs, Circa 1930/1935. Exhibited,Ê”Will Edmondson’s Mirkels,” the Tennessee Fine Arts Center at Cheekwood (April 12 through May 21, 1964), and listed as #6 in the catalog, published by Louise Dahl-Wolfe. Artist’s Biography: William Edmondson was born in Davidson County, Tennessee, the son of freed slaves, and worked most of his life as a railroad employee and janitor. A spiritual experience at the age of 57 prompted him to begin sculpting limestone using a railroad spike as chisel, and he claimed divine inspiration for the works produced during his 17 year art career. Women, Biblical figures and animals were among his favored subjects, although he also produced more utilitarian items such as tombstones and birdbaths. In 1937, Edmondson became the first African American artist to have a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, and he is regarded as one of the most important self-taught artists of the 20th century. Provenance: The estate of Janet Marsh Pruitt (Mrs. Earl Pruitt) of Pennsylvania, formerly of Nashville, Tennessee. By descent from her parents, Ross and Anna Marsh. Mrs. Marsh acquired the sculpture from a member of the Art Department – likely Professor Sidney Hirsch- while working for Peabody College in Nashville, just a few blocks from where Edmondson lived. Professor Hirsch (who frequently walked past Edmondson’s house) is credited with introducing Edmondson to well-connected arts patrons Alfred and Elizabeth Starr and Harper’s Bazaar photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe. Wolfe’s now-famous photographs of Edmondson and his yard full of limestone sculptures brought him to the attention of the New York art world and gained him the acquaintance of Alfred Barr, Jr., director of the Museum of Modern Art.Ê Unlike many Edmondson figures acquired by Nashvillians in the days before Edmondson gained international fame, “Miss Lucy” was not kept outside as garden sculpture. Mrs. Marsh told her family the limestone figure was always used inside as a doorstop (which has helped the sculpture avoid surface bleaching and erosion). According to the exhibit catalog, which quoted the Marshes, “Miss Lucy” was a good member of Edmondson’s Nashville Primitive Baptist church who had been “uplifted to heaven.” CONDITION: Overall very good condition, one minor abrasion to lower section of hair, scattered wear to base, old chip to front left corner. Small area of abrasion to one side (arm area) from former use as a doorstop. Remnants of an exhibition tag and the number 6 written in marker on underside.
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