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Upcoming Exhibition

William Edmondson:
A Monumental Vision

June 25 – September 10, 2023

Experience the enduring relevance of this self-taught American sculptor.


William Edmondson. Girl with a Cape, undated. Limestone. Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art, Nashville. Gift from the estate of Elizabeth Lyle Starr. Image © Eric Wheeler

Adults $25; seniors $23; students $5; members free

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About the Exhibition

William Edmondson (c. 1874–1951) made carving his vocation around 1932, having previously worked as a hospital orderly in Nashville, Tennessee. Inspired by a vision—described by the artist as a divine calling—Edmondson began to carve gravestones, freestanding figurative sculpture, and garden ornaments. These pieces, distinctive for their clean lines and succinct expression of character, soon attracted the attention of curators and collectors, and in 1937, Edmondson became the first Black American artist to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

More than 80 years later, this exhibition presents over 60 works by Edmondson and sheds new light on his practice and artistry. It reassesses the artist as more than a passive actor in an unfolding drama—a self-taught sculptor “discovered” by white patrons and institutions—and explores how Edmondson’s identity and position within history influenced his life and work. On view in the Roberts Gallery, William Edmondson: A Monumental Vision also examines the complex relationship between Black cultural production and the American museum.

To elaborate on this important theme, Chicago-based performance artist Brendan Fernandes has choreographed a new work, Returning to Before, to be activated in the exhibition space.

Exhibition Organization

William Edmondson: A Monumental Vision is organized by the Barnes and curated by James Claiborne, curator of public programs, and Nancy Ireson, Deputy Director for Collections and Exhibitions & Gund Family Chief Curator.


Major support for William Edmondson: A Monumental Vision has been provided by:

Ongoing support for exhibitions comes from the Christine and Michael Angelakis Exhibition Fund, the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Exhibition Fund, the Lois and Julian Brodsky Exhibition Fund, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Christine and George Henisee Exhibition Fund, Aileen and Brian Roberts, and the Tom and Margaret Lehr Whitford Exhibition Fund.

The exhibition publication is made possible with generous support from Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.

Additional support for the exhibition comes from Jack and Barb Hafner, John J. Medveckis, and other generous donors.

In addition, funding for all exhibitions comes from contributors to the Barnes Foundation Exhibition Fund:

Joan Carter and John Aglialoro, Julia and David Fleischner, Leigh and John Middleton, Jeanette and Joe Neubauer

John Alchin and Hal Marryatt, Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, Lois and Julian Brodsky, N. Judith Broudy, Laura and Bill Buck, Elaine W. Camarda and A. Morris Williams, Jr., Eugene and Michelle Dubay, Penelope P. Harris, Jones & Wajahat Family, Lisa D. Kabnick and John H. McFadden, Victor F. Keen and Jeanne Ruddy, Marguerite Lenfest, Maribeth and Steven Lerner, Leslie Miller and Richard Worley Foundation, Hilarie and Mitchell Morgan, The Park Family, Wendy and Mark Rayfield, Adele K. Schaeffer, Katie and Tony Schaeffer, Dr. and Mrs. Eugene E. Stark, Joan F. Thalheimer, Bruce and Robbi Toll, van Beuren Charitable Foundation, The Victory Foundation, Kirsten White, Randi Zemsky and Bob Lane, Anonymous.