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 Horace Pippin  (1888 - 1946)

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About: Horace Pippin
 

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania      Known for: naive townscape, genre and still-life painting

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Ad Code: 2
Horace Pippin
from Auction House Records.
Holy Mountain, I
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Horace Pippin was born in 1888 in West Chester, Pennsylvania.  Pippin was one of the last of this country's important folk artists.  He was the grandson of slaves.  He left school at fourteen, worked as a field hand in Goshen, New York and then enlisted in the Army. During World War I, a sniper wounded him in the right shoulder, partially paralyzing his arm.  After the war, he was able to perform only light labor; he was a junk dealer and delivered laundry that his wife took in.  He also began to paint, laboriously. He painted many genre scenes of black life: the war, the hearth, his favorite heroes, religious subjects, etc.  He painted still life, and portraits of whites as well as blacks.  He worked out of a tiny dark room in his home.

Pippin's primitivism is a miraculously childlike vision sustained and disciplined without being dulled by a long professional career as a painter.  It's the paradoxically sophisticated primitivism of an artist who retains his way of looking at the world out of conviction, rather than out of ignorance of mainstream conventions.  Pippin's vision - his dream, as he called it, so overrode any concern for formal pictorial niceties that he was undaunted by loss of technical control when the sniper hit him during World War I.  He returned to painting by simply placing the brush between his right fingers and pushing his arm around the canvas with his left hand. 

Sources include:
Mark Stevens in Newsweek, August 22, 1977
Master Paintings from the Phillips Collection

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Added note by genealogy researcher Dan Lindley:
Horace Pippin died in 1946, and is buried at Chestnut Grove Annex Cemetery in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Biography from Galerie St. Etienne:
Pippin was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania to a hard-working, poor, yet enduring African-American family.  His earliest memories were of Goshen, New York, where he spent much of his childhood.  While attending the local elementary school for “colored” children, Pippin created his first drawings, which depicted Biblical scenes.  At fourteen he attempted his first portrait.

Pippin began working at a series of unskilled jobs to support his sick mother, who died in 1911.  He enlisted in the army in 1917 and was sent to France.  In the trenches he constantly wrote in his diary and made sketches.  In 1918 he returned home from the front, his right arm paralyzed by a sniper’s bullet.  In 1920 he moved back to West Chester, marrying a widow with a young son.  Some nine years later he returned to his artwork, creating a burnt wood panel by balancing a hot poker in his right hand against his knee and moving a piece of wood across the hot tip of the iron with his left hand. This method of scoring the wood eventually helped him to regain strength in the paralyzed arm, and he was able to begin painting again.

In 1937 Pippin’s first one-man show was held at the West Chester Community Center, an institution which provided cultural and social opportunities for local African Americans.  Only one year later, four of his paintings were included in the ground breaking folk art exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, “Masters of Popular Painting.”  The following year Robert Carlen of Philadelphia became his dealer, and introduced him to the renowned collector, Dr. Albert C. Barnes, who purchased several works.  In the 1940s Pippin’s work became more widely known, as many museums, including the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, The Corcoran Gallery, The Newark Museum and the National Gallery of Art, exhibited his work.  Since Pippin’s death in 1946, museums and galleries have continued to exhibit and purchase his works.  Most recently, the Pennsylvania Academy of Art organized an exhibition that traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Biography from Tobin Reese Fine Art:
Horace Pippin (1888-1946) was an African-American painter known for his depictions of slavery and race relations. His paintings, influenced both by classical and folk art, often depicted prominent African-Americans and the fight against slavery; in addition, many of Pippin's works feature religious themes, juxtaposing the immediacy of the fight for African-American equality with Biblical subjects.

He was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, moving to Goshen, New York shortly after his birth. He displayed an early affinity for artistic expression as a child, winning supplies from an art contest. He spent most of his youth attending segregated schools, a topic to which he would frequently return in his art. After school, he worked a variety of jobs in order to support himself while practicing art on the side, completely self-taught. Although he made time for his art, his most groundbreaking pieces did not surface until later in his life.

While serving in World War I, Pippin's life was forever changed when a sniper shot his right arm in 1919, rendering it immobile. This incident, in addition to his marriage in 1920, inspired him to take up painting in order to strengthen his right arm. He learned how to use his left arm to support and guide his right arm in order to be able to execute a variety of brush strokes. He began to gain recognition in the 1930s despite his lack of formal training. He was included in a traveling show organized by the Museum of Modern Art in 1938. His only formal training didn't come until the age of 51 when he enrolled at the Barnes Foundation in 1939. This led to his first solo exhibition in 1940, followed by several more, almost one per year leading up to his death; many of these exhibitions led to purchases of his art, spreading it out in galleries across the United States.

Pippin died in 1946 of a stroke. When the Smithsonian Institution created the Archives of American Art, an online collection of important works, letters, and documents surrounding notable American artists, Pippin was one of the first artists whose letters were digitized.

Source:
Ian Martyn for Tobin Reese Fine Art

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Horace Pippin is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Black American Artists

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