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Artist Name:

Ulysses Davis

Nationality & Life Dates:

American, 1914 – 1990


Jesus on the Cross




Carved cedar, mahogany, toothpicks, and paint


40 1/2 x 14 x 6 inches

Credit Line:

Purchase with general funds and funds from friends of the Museum

Accession Number:


On View - Stent Family Wing, Skyway Level, Gallery 407
One of the most significant self-taught artists in the history of the American South, Ulysses Davis made his living as a barber, among the few professions open to African Americans in the 1950s. For this sculpture, the largest Davis made, he insisted on a piece of cedar fine enough to embody Jesus and abstracted the anatomical forms to avoid any mimicry that presumed to depict God. With wood chisel and knives Davis carved as if performing a penance, enumerating and empathizing with Christ’s sufferings as he worked. He spent almost ten hours carving the crown alone, drilling holes into which he inserted thorns made from toothpick ends.

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