Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘harace pippin’

Art: Horace Pippin
Sunday Morning Breakfast, 1943

Recently I read an interesting piece on a little-known African American artist, Horace Pippin. Art critic Michelle Aldredge wrote about him on her delightfully named blog, Gwarlingo. (“Gwarlingo,” she explains, is Welsh for the moment before the clock strikes.)

Aldredge had been visiting the Barnes collection in Philadelphia when she was startled by a small, powerful painting.

She reports, “Last summer I was strolling through the galleries of the new Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, surrounded by the exquisite paintings of Matisse, Modigliani, Cézanne, when a small painting of Abraham Lincoln and his father building a log cabin caught my eye. …

“That day in Philadelphia I opened my notebook and wrote the following: ‘HORACE PIPPIN!’ And just so I wouldn’t forget, I underlined Pippin’s name three times. And then I starred it for good measure.

“A descendant of slaves, Horace Pippin’s biography is a compelling one. Here is an excerpt from his Wikipedia entry:

He was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Goshen, New York. There 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.

“Pippin enlisted in the army in 1917 and fought in the famous, all-black 369th Infantry regiment in France during World War I. Less than a month before the war ended, he was shot in the right shoulder.

“ ‘When I was a boy I loved to make pictures,’ he once wrote, but war ‘brought out all the art in me. … I can never forget suffering and I will never forget sunsets. So I came home with all of it in my mind and I paint from it today.’ …

“One website on Pennsylvania history describes the evolution of Pippin’s brief career:

After the war, the handicapped Pippin devised a way of supporting his right hand with his left. Using a hot poker to burn in the outlines of his figures and objects onto wood (a technique called pyrography) and then filling them in, he was able to resume painting by the mid-1920s. …

“Words like ‘toiled’ appear frequently in Pippin’s biographies and give some hint at the reverential tone that has been used to describe the artist over the decades. His personal story is so riveting that Melissa Sweet and Jen Bryant have just written a new children’s book about the artist called A Splash of Red. …

“By the time of Pippin’s death in 1946 at the age of 58, he had completed 140-odd paintings, drawings and wood panels. In his obituary in the New York Times they called him the ‘most important Negro painter’ to have appeared in America. …

“Pippin’s paintings are in the tradition of other New-Deal artists like Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, whose murals and canvases depicted ordinary rural life. …

“During his life, Pippin was best known for his landscapes, domestic scenes, and religious paintings. Today, it is his historical scenes showing John Brown and Abraham Lincoln that receive the most attention. (Artist Jacob Lawrence said this his own series on John Brown was inspired by Pippin.) …

“Art critics struggle with Pippin because he does not fit neatly into a category or school. But Pippin didn’t need to buy into some pre-defined idea about what art should or shouldn’t be — he didn’t need to hitch himself to a specific art movement in order to get his work into the public eye. He earned critical acclaim the hard way: by creating outstanding art.

“ ‘Pictures just come to my mind,’ Pippin famously said, ‘and I tell my heart to go ahead.’ ”

More at Gwarlingo, where Aldredge has posted an impressive array of Pippin’s works.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: