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Wednesday, August 16, 10am – 4pm


William Edmondson. Untitled (Bird on a Branch), c. 1933–40. Courtesy of the Museum of Everything, London

$170; members $153
(one-day workshop)

About the Class

The sculptor William Edmondson (1874–1951) is probably best known as the first Black artist to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The 1937 exhibition has become a point of contention, however, raising questions about MoMA’s intentions, Edmondson’s agency, and the power of cultural institutions to inspire social change or maintain the status quo. Though Edmondson was featured in publications, photographs, and even film footage, there is little documentation of the artist’s voice. Existing quotations struggle to capture the cadence of his Nashville accent, offering only a mediated glimpse into who he was, how he felt, and what he thought. What we are left to contend with are his sculptures.

This one-day workshop explores the Barnes exhibition William Edmondson: A Monumental Vision and offers participants the chance to discuss Edmondson’s uncomfortable place in art history as a touchstone of American modernism, and his place within Black culture as an artist and tombstone cutter. Exercising the skill of close looking, we will spend time with his sculptures, exploring what the materials reveal while also considering what it may have meant for Edmondson to sculpt the objects on view. Engaging present-day discourse on the role of the museum, repatriation, and the tensions of canonical thinking, we will ask what it means to own and exhibit his sculptures now.

Capacity: 40

Note: Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required to attend this class; please check safety guidelines for current masking information.

Barnes classes will:

  • Increase your understanding of art-related concepts.
  • Increase the ways you think critically about art.
  • Improve your ability to communicate about art.
  • Deepen your appreciation for cultures and histories outside your own.


TK Smith

A Philadelphia-based writer and cultural historian, Smith is Assistant Curator: Art of the African Diaspora at the Barnes. His writing has been published in Art in America, the Brooklyn Rail, and Art Papers. Currently, Smith is a doctoral candidate in the History of American Civilization program at the University of Delaware.

Art in Context

Art in Context courses connect works of art to history: What was happening politically, socially, and culturally at the time a piece was made? How did these circumstances shape the artist’s formal choices?

Recent Barnes Class Testimonials

“[The] professor was highly engaging, facilitated excellent discussions, and [was] very knowledgeable. I learned a lot about teaching art history from watching her.” Course: Matisse and Picasso with Martha Lucy

“Every single second of the course was a productive, valuable, and interesting use of my time. The instructor's enthusiasm and reference to outside resources sparked a greater interest in me as a learner and resulted in me exploring even more on my own. I couldn't have enjoyed the experience more.” Course: Salvador Dalí: Surrealism and Beyond with Jonathan Wallis

“I am not an artist and prior to this course I had not thought about what an artist might be 'thinking,' as opposed to 'feeling.' I loved this course and plan to immerse myself in color theory.” Course: Visualizing Memory with Lucas Kelly

“This course is equal to or exceeds art history courses I have taken at several major universities in terms of syllabus and quality of instruction.” Course: The School of Paris with Joseph Tokumasu Field