Both abstract and delicate, Lady is an iconic work by renowned self-taught artist William Edmondson. The sculpture is further distinguished by its ownership by Harper's Bazaar's Louise Dahl-Wolfe and Diana Vreeland. Photographer Dahl-Wolfe acquired Lady in the 1930s when she took her seminal photographs of the artist's yard, and she later gifted the work to her friend and colleague at Harper's, fashion editor Diana Vreeland. Vreeland, who subsequently served as editor-in-chief at Vogue and consultant for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, gave Lady pride of place in her Brewster, New York home (fig. 1). The sculpture has remained in Vreeland's family.
Edmondson worked as a janitor at the Woman’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, from around 1909 until 1930, and before that held various jobs around the city, ranging from farmhand to sewer worker. By the early 1930s, however, he had become his own boss: he established a stonecutting business next to his home to create tombstones for his community. Over time, he also began to carve freestanding sculptures of religious figures, famous and local people, and various animals. Edmondson’s yard quickly attracted attention from art lovers, including Dahl-Wolfe, who photographed the artist and his work multiple times in 1936 and/or 1937. After seeing the Dahl-Wolfe images, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., then-director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, organized a 1937 exhibition of works by the sculptor, making Edmondson the first African American to have a solo exhibition at MoMA. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s Edmondson’s home remained a destination, drawing visitors such as famed photographer Edward Weston.