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1968 Edgar Tolson Born: Lee City, Kentucky 1904 Died: Campton, Kentucky 1984 carved and painted white elm with pencil 12 7/8 x 17 x 10 in. (32.7 x 43.2 x 25.5 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson 1986.65.271 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 26B

Luce Center 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

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.


Animal - bird - owl

Animal - cattle

Animal - lion

Animal - reptile - snake

Landscape - tree - apple tree

Religion - Old Testament - Adam

Religion - Old Testament - Eve


folk art


wood - elm