To celebrate African American History Month, I’m going to feature black artists the month of February. Naturally I’m going to start with one of my favorites, Horace Pippin. One of the most interesting phenomena when studying African American art, I think, is the period known as the
Pippin grew up in rural
In World War I Pippin was seriously injured in the right arm. His early paintings depicted scenes of the horrors of the war. By the 1930s, he returned to subject matter that reflected everyday African American life. He felt confident enough in his paintings by the late 1930s to start selling them. His work attracted the attention of illustrator N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945, father of painter Andrew Wyeth). This led to a one-person show in
In his Self-Portrait Pippin places himself within a great tradition in western art. He joins the likes of Judith Leyster, Rembrandt, and van Gogh, depicting himself at the easel. This beautifully simple portrait shows Pippin’s pride in his chosen vocation, while revealing the essence of his mature style: flat planes of color, even lighting, and flattened space and form. Pippin always felt that artists did not need to learn too much about technique, but rather to paint what they felt in their heart. His earnest, dignified depictions of African American life are a tribute to the triumph of the African American spirit coming out of the Harlem Renaissance.