Horace Pippin

Horace Pippin was an African-American artist known for his paintings that depicted the modern African-American experience as well as biblical and historical scenes. Born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Horace Pippin’s love for art began early in his life drawing with anything he could find. At the age of 14, he dropped out of school to get a job once his mother became ill. Pippin enlisted with the army in 1917 and went to France to fight in World War I as part of the African-American 369th Infantry, aka Harlem's Hell Fighters. While there, he drew in his notebook many of the scenes that were the base of his later masterpieces. In 1919, Pippin went home to West Chester after sustaining a debilitating gunshot wound to his right arm. He lost the use of his painting arm as the result of this injury, but he was determined to paint. He propped up his arm with a poker and began drawing on wood as a form of therapy. By the age of 40, he began paintings oils by using his left hand to guide his right to create the intricate, detailed works that he became known for. It took him three years to finish his first painting.

His oils were quintessential in depicting the African-American life with scenes from his time in the military to past historical and political scenes. He had two major series; one of Abraham Lincoln and the next of John Brown. He was known to paint self-portraits and created a few biblical paintings as well. Many labeled his art as "folk art" due to the flat, dimensionless quality with flat lines and bold colors. Pippin exhibited with a traveling group of exhibitors at the Museum of Modern Art in 1938 and began to expand his fame beyond his hometown. Time and Newsweek featured his work in 1940. In July of 1946, at the peak of his celebrity, Horace Pippin passed away from a stroke in West Chester.

"Pictures just come to my mind and I tell my heart to go ahead." - Horace Pippin