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Horace Pippin

American, 20th centiry. 
Born 1888, West Chester, Pennsylvania; died 1946, West Chester, Pennsylvania.


Horace 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 worked 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 that 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. In 1994, 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.

- Courtesy of Galerie St. Etienne


Selected Exhibitions

2013, Story Lines:Tracing the Narrative of "Outsider" Art, Galerie Saint Etienne, New York

2009, They Taught Themselves:American Self-Taught Painters Between the World Wars, Galerie Saint Etienne, New York

1996, Breaking All The Rules: Art in Transition, Galerie Saint Etienne, New York

1995, Recent Acquisitions, Galerie Saint Etienne, New York

1993, The "Outsider" Question: Non-Academic Art from 1900 to the Present, Galerie Saint Etienne, New York

1987, Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection, Galerie Saint Etienne, New York

1987, Folk Art of This Century, Galerie Saint Etienne, New York

1984, American Folk Art: People, Places and Things, Galerie Saint Etienne, New York

1977, American Primitive Art, Galerie Saint Etienne, New York

1938, Masters of Popular Painting, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Selected Collections

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia 
Galerie Saint Etienne, New York
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia
Reynolda House:Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem

Selected Bibliography

American Folk Art Masters, Mennello Museum of American Folk Art, Orlando, Florida, 2001.

Four American Primitives: Edward Hicks, John Kane, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, Horace Pippin, exhibition catalogue, ACA Galleries, New York, 1972.

Bihalji-Merin, Oto, Masters of Naive Art: A History and Worldwide Survey, New York, 1971.

American Primitive Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C, 1958.

Janis, Sidney, They Taught Themselves: American Primitive Painters of the 20th Century, New York, 1942.

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