William Edmondson (American/Tennessee, 1874-1951), “Miss Amy,” companion sculpture to “Miss Lucy,” sold in our January 2019 auction (lot #110). Carved limestone sculpture depicting a standing woman wearing a dress with square neckline; her bountiful hair is tied back, creating negative space between her back and her hair, and she holds a book in her left hand; her long skirt reaches all the way to the integral base. 14 1/2″ H x 4 3/4″ W x 7 3/8″ D. Circa 1930/1935. Exhibited, “Will Edmondson’s Mirkels” at the Tennessee Fine Arts Center at Cheekwood (April 12 through May 21, 1964), and listed as #5 in the catalog, published by Louise Dahl-Wolfe. Additionally exhibited in “The Art of William Edmondson” at the Tennessee Fine Arts Center at Cheekwood’s exhibit, January 28 – April 23, 2000 (which traveled to four other museums including the Museum of American Folk Art in New York and the High Museum in Atlanta); listed in the exhibition catalog “The Art of William Edmondson” on page 136, figure #23. 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 this sculpture along with “Miss Lucy” 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. Unlike many Edmondson figures acquired by Nashvillians in the days before Edmondson gained international fame, “Miss Amy” and “Miss Lucy” were not kept outside as garden sculptures. Mrs. Marsh told her family the limestone figures were always used inside as doorstops (which has helped the sculptures avoid surface bleaching and erosion). According to the 1964 “Mirkels” exhibit catalog, which quoted the Marshes, “Miss Amy” was a good member of Edmondson’s Nashville Primitive Baptist church who had been “uplifted to heaven.” 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. CONDITION: Overall very good condition. CONDITION: Overall very good condition with old patina. Number 1 or 7 (underlined) written in marker on underside of base. Old tape residue to underside of base. Small whitish surface scratch to top of base, about 1/4″L. Overall minor wear particularly to right side in hair (abrasions from door when used as doorstop). Vertical line extending from base near subject’s right shoe appears to be natural variation in stone and does not illuminate under UV light inspection. Minor wear to base, particularly at corners and lowermost edges.
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