William Edmondson (American/Tennessee, 1874-1951) carved limestone sculpture, “The Preacher”, depicting a minister with his left arm raised with a Bible in hand, open eyes and mouth, and attired in a long-tailed coat and bow tie, standing on a pedestal. 23 1/2″ H x 12 1/2″ W x 8 1/4″ D. This sculpture appears in an Edward Weston photograph of Edmondson’s yard taken in 1941. Ref. Edmund Fuller, “Visions in Stone,” p. 11. Illustrated, ibid, p. 36. Exhibited 1981, the Tennessee State Museum inaugural exhibit titled “William Edmondson: A Retrospective” and featured in the exhibition catalog of the same name on page 38, catalog entry #8. Also exhibited at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, “The Art of Tennessee”, 2006 (and full page illustration in the catalog, p. 281). Edmondson’s choice of a preacher as subject matter speaks to the prominence of the church not only in black communities in the early 20th century, and the role of the preacher as a community leader, but also to the importance of spirituality in his own life. It was a directive from God at the age of 57 which Edmondson (a former janitor and railroad worker with no formal art training) said prompted him to pick up a chisel and begin sculpting limestone figures. His work was noticed by Nashville art patrons who introduced him to 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. In 1937 Edmondson became the first African American artist to have a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art. At least three other Preacher figures by Edmondson are known, including one in the collection of the Newark Museum and another in the collection of the McClung Museum of Art at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Provenance: Private Southern Collection, acquired circa 1990 from the son of Myron King, owner of Nashville’s Lyzon Art Gallery and one of Edmondson’s earliest supporters. A notarized certificate of authenticity dated 2002, signed by Myron King Sr. and stating he purchased this sculpture directly from William Edmondson in about 1948 and gifted it to his son, will be provided to the winning bidder. PRE-APPROVAL IS REQUIRED TO BID ON THIS LOT. PLEASE CONTACT CASE ANTIQUES, INC. AT THE KNOXVILLE GALLERY FOR DETAILS. 865-558-3033 or BID@CASEANTIQUES.COM. CONDITION: Overall good condition with old patina. Minor wear to base, particularly at corners and lowermost edges. Subtle and very early repaired break to upper left arm, said to have been repaired by Edmondson himself. By oral history, Myron King first viewed the sculpture in Edmondson’s yard and the break to the arm had already occurred. King suggested Edmondson would improve the durability (and marketability) of his sculptures by limiting his projecting appendages, advising him that “If it can’t roll down a hill without something breaking off, don’t carve it!” Whether Edmondson took this advice to heart or not is debatable; certainly his angel images and birds included projecting elements subject to breakage. However, his Preacher figure in the collection of the McClung museum has a much more closely-carved arm and Bible, and the Preacher in the collection of the Newark Museum holds aloft a much smaller Bible, suggesting Edmondson was working out ways to create a more stable design.
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