William Edmondson began working with limestone as a tombstone carver, but in the early 1930s, visions from God inspired him to begin creating different forms. Women figured prominently in the menagerie of sculpture that filled Edmondson’s yard. In addition to portraying legendary ladies such as Eleanor Roosevelt and the Bible’s Eve, he carved tributes to the nurses he had worked with at a local hospital.
Nurse demonstrates Edmondson’s elegant economy of form. He rendered the body’s basic shapes as geometric volumes, concentrating on details in the facial features and carefully coiffed hair. The figure’s hands, positioned gracefully in her lap, lend Nurse a delicacy that belies its solidity.
Edmondson became the first African American artist to have a solo show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art when it exhibited twelve of his works in 1937.