Saturday, June 24, 2017

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: June 24, 1904 - Edgar Tolson

Image from
SAAM (Smithsonian American Art Museum) - an album on Flickr

From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Wolfe County woodcarver Edgar Tolson inspired a lasting fascination and respect for unschooled art of the twentieth century. He was born near Lee City on June 24, 1904, son of James Perry and Rebecca (Maddox) Tolson. By turns a Baptist preacher, chairmaker, carpenter, cobbler, and coal miner, Tolson suffered a stroke in 1957. He then concentrated on carving wooden figures to entertain his children and repay his neighbors.

Workers in the federal War on Poverty met Tolson in the mid-1960s. Subsequently, his carvings appeared at the Smithsonian Institution Museum Shop and the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen's fair. John Tuska and Michael Hall, art faculty members at the University of Kentucky , admired Tolson's "dolls," and Hall drew Tolson to the attention of a national audience. Tolson took part in the 1968 and 1973 Smithsonian festivals of folklife. He was also represented in the 1973 Whitney Museum Biennial of American Art. Tolson did carve secular subjects but is best known for renderings of Adam and Eve, depicting them variously in paradisal happiness, tempted by the snake, and expelled from the garden. Most of his pieces are of unpainted poplar.

Tolson's works have been collected by the National Museum of American Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Museum of American Folk Art. In 1981 he received an artist's fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1925 Tolson married Lilly Smith of Breathitt County and raised four children. Hulda Patton became his second wife in 1942; their marriage produced fourteen children. Edgar Tolson died September 7, 1984, in Manchester and lies buried in a family cemetery north of Campton.

JULIE ARDERY, Entry Author

Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

The temptation : Edgar Tolson and the genesis of twentieth-century folk art / Julia S. Ardery.
NK9798.T65 A93 1998, Special Collections Research Center

Edgar Tolson : Kentucky gothic : [exhibition] / organized by Priscilla Colt.
N40.1.T65 C70, Fine Arts Library

Kentucky Folk Art Oral History Project [sound recording].
Special Collections Research Center - Oral History Collection

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