William Edmondson’s Lion leads outsider art sale

William Edmondson’s Lion headlined a sale of outsider art at Christie’s in New York.

The piece made $511,500 against an estimate of $400,000, an increase of 27.8%.

Edmondson became the most valuable outsider artist at auction when his Boxer sold for $785,000 in 2015.

Lion Christies Edmondson

William Edmondson was a celebrated outsider artist

Born to a family of black sharecroppers in the rural southern US, Edmondson worked on the railways for a few years before an injury forced him to take up a less taxing role as a janitor.

He lost his job when the Depression rolled across America in the 1930s.

It was during this period that he heard a message from God, telling him to become a stone carver.

He opened up a business making tombstones, before branching out into decorative pieces like the present example. In the mid-1930s his work was discovered by writer and art lover Sidney Hirsch.

Hirsch brought him to the attention of the art world.

In 1937, Edmondson would become the first African-American granted a solo exhibition at MOMA in New York.

Titled Courageous Spirits: Outsider and Vernacular Art, the January 20 auction also featured work from William Hawkins – whose Puma Kitten (circa 1985) made $85,000.

Like Edmondson, Hawkins began making art relatively late in life (he was in his mid-30s when he began painting).

William Hawkins Puma

Hawkins' work is easy to identify

His bold, graphic compositions have a large following.

This example is typical of his work, in that much of the image is taken up with Hawkins’ name alongside his place date of birth.

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