William Edmonson (1874 – 1951) was an African-American artist active from the 1930s to his death in 1951. Born in Tennessee to two former slaves, Edmonson worked in railway shops and at a local hospital as a janitor to support himself. Edmonson began sculpting in 1934 and did so because it is said he received a vision from God. His first projects were limestone tombstones for associates and he later moved on to sculpt pieces of religious symbolism including angels, animals, and birds. Edmonson’s also created sculptures of community and church members, and notable public figures including Eleanor Roosevelt. Edmonson’s work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in 1938 and today Edmonson remains the first African-American artist to be given a one-person exhibition at the institution.
Image released into public domain.
(source: Luce Foundation Center for American Art)