Edmondsons Angel with Cape Surround

  • Edmondson’s “Angel with Cape Surround”

Sotheby’s is having its American Paintings, Silver, Folk Art and Sculpture auctions today and tomorrow in New York, and there are several things I’d like to have. Or at least be able to see at Crystal Bridges. Indulge me.


One is William Edmondson’s “Angel with Cape Surround,” carved limestone figure by the late self-taught Tennessee artist (1882-1951). Here’s a bit from Sotheby’s about Edmondson, whose work I’ve always craved:

Edmondson was the first African American self-taught artist given a one-person exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, in 1937. A New Yorker reviewer acknowledged the “surprising amount of weight and power” of the work but went on to write, “The figures are not decorative enough to be attractive to many, nor have they really enough emotional or intellectual content to be of lasting interest, and it is likely that after the show closes, on December 1st they and Mr. Edmondson will soon be forgotten.” More than seventy years later, that reviewer was proved wrong. The museumestablishment has recognized Edmondson as one of the most important self-taught artists of the twentieth century.

Grabachs Waiting for the Bus

  • Grabach’s “Waiting for the Bus”

Then there’s “Waiting for the Bus” by New Jersey artist John R. Grabach (1886-1981), one of several of the artist’s paintings at auction (and I guess one needs more than one in a collection, so why stop there?). Why is this woman sitting with her legs sticking straight out? She looks like a patient, sort of. Anyway, it reminds me of the hills and architecture and autumn light of the New England mill town I once lived in.

Nadelmans Group of 13 Standing Female Figures

  • Nadelman’s “Group of 13 Standing Female Figures”

Then there’s the “Group of 13 Standing Female Figures” by Elie Nadelman (1882-1946), plaster miniatures placed in a Plexiglass box. From Sotheby’s:

After suffering severe financial losses stemming from the Great Depression, Nadelman changed his focus between 1938 and his death in 1946. As Barbara Haskell writes, he turned “from idealism and emotional restraint to flux, anxiety, and uncertainty”. He began making numerous casts of single plaster figures small enough to easily be held in the hand. He drew his inspiration for these miniature figures from the Tanagra and Myrina votive figurines of Ancient Greece. Haskell continues, “Mostly…he left the surfaces rough and scarred, which gave the figures an unfinished look, as if they had been caught in a state of metamorphosis”. He would group figures together, often laying them out flat on tables in his studio as though they were artifacts from an archaeological excavation. (Barbara Haskell, Elie Nadelman: Sculptor of Modern Life, New York, 2003, p. 187)

Whirligig from Iowa farm

  • Whirligig from Iowa farm

And because I’m a nut for folk art, here’s a third piece that caught my eye: A whirligig from a farm in Iowa. Alice Walton is probably NOT going to buy this for me, but here it is anyway.


Sotheby’s is touting other works in the auction, one a 19th century painting that purports to be a portrait of Capt. James Smith’s family owned by his descendants, a Nadelman sculpture of two female nudes and a gorgeous George Inness painting them. I also wouldn’t mind a couple of Joseph Stella drawings and Martha Walters series of paintings from Ellis Island. See the auction overview here.