He was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania and grew up in Goshen, New York, where he attended segregated schools until he was 15, when he went to work to support his ailing mother. As a boy, Horace responded to an art supply company's advertising contest and won his first set of crayons and a box of watercolors. As a youngster, Pippin made drawings of racehorses and jockeys from Goshen's celebrated racetrack. Prior to 1917, Pippin variously toiled in a coal yard, in an iron foundry, as a hotel porter and as a used-clothing peddler. He was a member of St. John's African Union Methodist Protestant Church. He was a self-taught African-American sculptor and painter whose work prominently reflected the injustice of slavery and American segregation.
Horace Pippin, The Domino Players
Though not a painter living in Paris, Horace Pippin was nonetheless one of the earliest Americans to receive the Croix de Guerre – the highest of French military honors. Pippin served in the 369th infantry in Europe during World War I, where he lost the use of his right arm after being shot by a sniper. He said of his combat experience: “I did not care what or where I went. I asked God to help me, and he did so. And that is the way I came through that terrible and Hellish place. For the whole entire battlefield was hell, so it was no place for any human being to be.”
Highest French Military Honor, Croix de Guerre
The 369th Infantry
During World War I, the 369th Infantry helped to repel the German offensive and to launch counteroffensives. General John J. Pershing assigned the 369th to the 16th Division of the French Army.
New York State Archives, Horace Pippin Service Record. NYSA_B0808-85_Pippin_Horace
The ‘Harlem Hellfighters’ fought with the French army at Chateau-Thierry and Belleau Wood. They saw 191 days in combat. This was longer than any other American unit in the war. They were the first Allied unit to reach the Rhine. Colonel Hayward once proudly described his unit saying, "My men never retire, they go forward or they die".
The supreme courage and valor of the 369th earned them fame in Europe and in America. Newspapers headlined the heroism of Corporal Henry Johnson and Private Needham Roberts. In May 1918 they were defending an isolated lookout post on the Western Front when they came under heavy attack by a German unit. Though they were wounded, they refused to surrender and fought valiantly. They were the first Americans (of any race) awarded the Croix de Guerre. Of the Harlem Hellfighters 171 of its officers and men received individual medals. The unit, including one Horace Pippin received a Croix de Guerre for taking Sechault.
After spending fourteen months in the trenches during World War I, Horace Pippin was wounded in his right shoulder, and his arm was considered useless. However, using his left hand to prop up his right, he began to paint and in three years had completed his first major painting: “End of the War-Starting Home”, at forty-three years of age. While in the trenches, Pippin kept illustrated journals of his military service, of which six drawings survived. His first group of paintings all dealt with his striking memories and impressions of war.
Horace Pippin, The End of War: Starting Home
They have the simplicity of the self-taught artist, with the color applied mostly in flat areas. Pippin’s later works are regimented into patterned areas that are intensified by accents of pure white. Pippin once described how he paints as follows: “ The colors are very simple, such as brown, amber, yellow, black, white, and green. The pictures come to me in my mind, and if to me it is a worthwhile picture, I tell my heart to go ahead .I paint it. I go over that picture in my mind several times and when I am ready to paint it I have all the details that I need. I take my time and examine every my time and examine every coat of paint very carefully to be sure that the exact color I have in mind is satisfactory to me. Then, I work my foreground away from the foreground-in other words, bringing out my work”
Horace Pippin, The Barracks
While Pippin initially took up art in the 1920s to strengthen his wounded right arm, his activity as a painter began in earnest around 1930, when he completed his first oil painting, “The End of the War: Starting Home”. By the late 1930s, critic Christian Brinton, artists N. C. Wyeth and John McCoy, collector Albert C. Barnes, dealer Robert Carlen and curators Dorothy Miller and Holger Cahill championed Pippin's distinctive paintings that captured his childhood memories and war experiences, scenes of everyday life, landscapes, portraits, biblical subjects, and American historical events. Pippin enrolled in art classes at the Barnes Foundation during autumn 1939 and spring 1940 semesters.
One of his best-known paintings is his “Self-portrait” of 1941, which shows him seated in front of an easel, cradling his brush in his right hand (he used his left arm to guide his injured right arm when painting). His painting of “John Brown Going to his Hanging” (1942) is in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.
Horace Pippin: John Brown Going to His Hanging
Among Pippin's works are many genre paintings, such as the “Domino Players” (1943), in the Phillips Collection, Washington D.C., and several versions of “Cabin in the Cotton”. His portraits include a depiction of the contralto Marian Anderson singing, painted in 1941. He burned into wood with a hot poker both the horrors of war and the joys of country life.
Horace Pippin: Cabin in the Cotton
In the eight years between his national debut in the Museum of Modern Art's traveling exhibition “Masters of Popular Painting” (1938) and his death at the age of fifty-eight, Pippin's recognition increased on the east and west coasts. During this period, he had three solo exhibitions (1940, 1941, and 1943) at the Carlen Gallery, Philadelphia and solo exhibitions at the Arts Club of Chicago (1941) and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1942), while private collections and museums such as the Barnes Foundation, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, purchased his works. His paintings were featured in national surveys held at the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Dayton Art Institute, OH; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Newark Museum, Newark, NJ; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA., and the Tate Gallery, London, UK.
In 1947 critic Alain Locke described him as "a real and rare genius, combining folk quality with artistic maturity so uniquely as almost to defy classification." Although he painted only about 140 works, concentrations of his work can be found in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; the Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania; the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA.
- Self Portrait, 1944
- Interior, 1944
- Harmonizing, 1944
- Zachariah, 1943
- The Trial of John Brown, 1942
- Butler Art
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Horace Pippin links
- Horace Pippin links
- Gallery of Horace Pippin Artwork
- Horace Pippin Notebook and Letters Online at the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Great black artist brought to you by Paris-based African American artist Ealy Mays
REFERENCES / SOURCES / LINKS
- §Forgey, Benjamin, "Horace Pippin's 'personal spiritual journey'",ARTnews76 (Summer 1977): pp. 74-xx
- §"Pippin, Horace."Grolier Encyclopedia of Knowledge, volume 15, copyright 1991. Grolier Inc.,ISBN 0-7172-5300-7
- §Barnes, Albert. "Horace Pippin." In Horace Pippin Exhibition, Carlen Gallery. Philadelphia, 1940.
- §Bearden, Romare. "Horace Pippin." In Horace Pippin, The Phillips Collection. Washington, D.C., 1976.
- §Locke, Alain. "Horace Pippin." In Horace Pippin Memorial Exhibition, The Art Alliance, April 8-May 4, 1947. Philadelphia, 1947.
- §Rodman, Selden.Horace Pippin: A Negro Painter in America. New York, 1947.
- §Stein, Judith E., et al.I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin. New York, 1993.
- §A Pennsylvania State historical Marker was placed at 327 Gay St., West Chester, Pennsylvania to commemorate his accomplishments and mark his home where he lived at the time of his death.
- §Forgey, 1977, p. 74
- §Judith Stein.I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin. New York. 1993
- §William E. Krattinger (December 2009)."National Register of Historic Places Registration: Olivet Chapel".New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2010-11-21.
- §"Pippin, Horace." Grolier Encyclopedia of Knowledge, volume 15, copyright 1991