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Church Lady

A work made of limestone.

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  • A work made of limestone.




William Edmondson
American, 1874–1951

About this artwork

One of the most significant self-taught artists of the 1930s and 1940s, William Edmondson said that God had commanded him to begin carving tombstones. He later turned to figural subjects, both religious and secular, which reflect the artist’s spirituality and the values of the African American society in which he lived. Church Lady is one of several sculptures Edmondson carved of recognizable types of mature women from his Nashville, Tennessee, community. The figure’s identity is suggested by her decorous, stylish outfit: a long coat worn over a dress with a bow at the neck and a close-fitting, tilted hat featuring a snood. In one hand she holds a small purse; in the other she clutches a Bible. Edmondson achieved fame in 1937 when he became the first black artist to be given a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Many saw important parallels in his work to the direct carving movement then popular among modernist sculptors.

Currently Off View

Arts of the Americas


William Edmondson


Church Lady


United States


c. 1933–1937




49.5 × 20 × 20 cm (19 1/2 × 7 7/8 × 7 7/8 in.)

Credit Line

Through prior acquisition of the George F. Harding Collection

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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