203.2 cm x 248.9 cm (80 in. x 98 in.)
(Dallas, Texas, 1952 - )
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, 1984
David Bates has long admired early 20th century American artists such as Marsden Hartley and Jerry Bywaters. He has a particular affinity for folk or self-taught artists such as William Edmondson (1874–1951), whom he considers the “Brancusi of folk artists.” Using a photo of Edmondson’s studio taken by Edward Weston, Bates depicts the fellow artist in work clothes, carving an angel out of limestone.
In the early 1930s, after working for nearly twenty-five years as a janitor at a women’s hospital, Edmondson began carving tombstones for his neighbors in the Nashville, Tennessee “sculpture yard” depicted in this painting by Bates. Edmondson was in his late fifties at the time and described his newfound passion as a vision he received from God. Less than a decade later, in 1937, the Museum of Modern Art gave Edmondson an exhibition, making him the first African American to receive a solo show at the institution.