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Edgar Tolson, born Lee City, KY 1904-died Campton, KY 1984
Folk Art
carved and painted white elm with pencil
12 7/8 x 17 x 10 in. (32.7 x 43.2 x 25.5 cm.)
Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson
Restrictions & Rights
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Object number
Luce Center Label
Edgar Tolson created many carvings that show Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He believed that the Fall of Man, along with the crucifixion of Christ, was one of the most important moments in history because it symbolized human weakness. A former preacher with vulnerabilities of his own, he seemed particularly attracted to images of this event. In Paradise the devil in the form of a serpent slithers toward the Tree of Knowledge, an act that foreshadows Adam and Eve's fall from grace. Tolson painted the serpent black to identify the devil's wickedness in contrast with the pure white elm of the rest of the figures.
Luce Object Quote
"God made the first Adam and Eve and I made the second. But I lack a long shot of being God." Edgar Tolson, quoted in Michael D. Hall, "You Make It with Your Mind," The Clarion, 1987
Data Source
Smithsonian American Art Museum
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Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Painting and Sculpture
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Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 26B
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor