Horace Pippin (1888-1946), Harmonizing, 1944, oil on fabric, 24 x 30 in. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio. Gift of Joseph and Enid Bissett, 1964
Horace Pippin (1888-1946), Interior (also known as Interior of Cabin), 1944, oil on fabric. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Meyer P. Potamkin in honor of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, 1991
Horace Pippin (1888-1946), Self-Portrait (II), 1944, oil on canvas adhered to cardboard, 8 x 6 1/2 inches. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Bequest of Jane Kendall Gingrich, 1982
Horace Pippin: The Way I See It
on view through July 19
One of the leading figures of 20th-century art, Horace Pippin (1888-1946) is known for his insightful, expressive and bold paintings. The exhibition will examine the work of Pippin, a self-taught artist who remained independent-creating and upholding a unique aesthetic sensibility. Pippin vividly depicted a range of subject matter, from intimate family moments and floral still lifes to powerful scenes of war, history and religion. Horace Pippin: The Way I See It will include 65 paintings-close to half of the artist’s oeuvre-assembled from museums and private collections across the United States. The Brandywine River Museum of Art will be the only venue for this exhibition, the first major exhibition of the artist’s work in more than 20 years.
Taking its title from Pippin's response to his own question about what made him a great painter: "I paint it exactly the way it is and exactly the way I see it," the exhibition will look closely at Pippin as a self-taught artist who remained independent—creating and upholding a unique aesthetic sensibility, vividly depicting a range of subject matter, from intimate family moments and bold floral still lifes, to powerful scenes of war, history and religion.
Pippin was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, less than 10 miles from the Brandywine, but grew up in Goshen, New York. He eventually returned to West Chester in 1920 after serving in World War I as part of the renowned African-American regiment known as the "Harlem Hellfighters."
The war, Pippin would later declare, “brought out all the art in me.” Despite a war injury that severely limited the use of his right arm, Pippin created an illustrated journal of his war experience on his return home, and by 1930 had begun teaching himself to paint in oil using his left arm as a support for his right hand.
Pippin painted in relative obscurity during most of the 1930s. Though his work was well known to his neighbors and sometimes displayed in local businesses, it was not until 1937 that his paintings gained wider public recognition when he exhibited two works at the Chester County Art Association's annual exhibition. Awarded a special mention by N.C. Wyeth, who was judging the show and helped ensure that Pippin's paintings were shown prominently, Pippin immediately garnered local press attention. Wyeth also persuaded the art critic and collector Christian Brinton to arrange for Pippin to have a solo exhibition at the West Chester Community Center, where the artist showed 10 oils and seven burnt-wood panels.
Pippin’s rise to prominence was meteoric after 1937. The Museum of Modern Art featured four of his works the following year, and he was quickly embraced nationally by other museums, galleries, critics and collectors who valued the self-taught artist's style—characterized in his time as "primitive," or "naïve”—for its perceived pureness of expression. Patrons ranged from Albert C. Barnes and Edith Halpert to Hollywood figures such as Edward G. Robinson.
Despite this general labeling of his work at the time as “naïve,” and Pippin himself as unsophisticated, the truth is quite different. Pippin was an astute observer of the world, and his paintings reflect his deeply personal connections to the issues that concerned him—such as peace and social justice—as well as his own experiences. The exhibition will present a comprehensive, nuanced examination of this seminal artist. It will reveal the richly varied sources of inspiration and traditions that informed the evolution of Pippin’s style, and will introduce Pippin’s fierce vision to a new generation of museum visitors.
Horace Pippin: The Way I See It will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue featuring insightful essays by exhibition curator Audrey Lewis, and guest authors Judith Dolkart, Jacqueline Francis, Kerry James Marshall, Anne Monahan, and Edward Puchner. It will be available in the Museum shop and online in April.
This exhibition is made possible by the Exelon Foundation and PECO. Additional support provided by The Davenport Family Foundation, Wyeth Foundation for American Art, and Dr. Benjamin Hammond.
Visit sites in West Chester associated with Horace Pippin with this guide.
Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930) Plus Ultra, 1912, earthenware,
13 1/2 x 10 inches. Moravian Pottery and Tile Works
Moravian Tiles of the New World
on view through August 16
During the Age of Exploration, the motto “Plus Ultra” reflected the belief that there was “more beyond” the known realm. The phrase was also used as a personal motto by Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930), the mastermind behind the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Mercer, who founded the Arts and Crafts style pottery in 1898, was a man of great and varied expertise in history, archaeology and craft. First produced in 1912, his epic relief tile cycle of the New World originally consisted of 29 tiles, though he continued to add to the series over the years, expanding to more than 70 tiles.
The exhibition features 25 of the original tile designs of the New World series which were commissioned for a gracious home in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, where they remained for nearly seventy years. This exhibition marks the first reinstallation of these tiles, which will be displayed in continuous frieze as they were originally intended.
Oscar Cesare (1885-1948) Uncle Sam—Capitol or White House? circa 1937, ink wash on paper. Gift of Valentine Cesare, 1992
Orson Lowell (1871-1956) He Admitted He Got an Entirely New Slant on My Stuff, ca. 1930, ink on paper. Gift of Jane Collette Wilcox, 1982
Pointed Pens: Comic Commentary
in American Cartoons
on view through August 23
From the maze-like contraptions of Rube Goldberg to the incisive political drawings of Thomas Nast, cartoons rivet public attention to issues of the day through their comic wit and visual satire.
This exhibition features a fascinating collection of over 30 works created between 1880 and 1945, selected from the Museum's rich collection of American illustration. It includes cartoons by some of America's most famous illustrators of the late 19th through early 20th centuries, including Oscar Cesare, Charles Dana Gibson, Rube Goldberg, John Held, Jr., Edward Kemble, Rockwell Kent, Orson Lowell, Rose O'Neill, Frederic Burr Opper, Thomas Nast and many others. Their drawings show a variety of styles and techniques that render incisive visual opinions about topical events, from political issues, business practices, and social morés, to even the act of viewing art.
Ariel A., grade 5 Chester County Landscape, 2015
Pastel and glue on paper, 9 x 11 in.
Friendship Elementary School, Coatesville, PA
Jose R., grade 5 Classroom Still Life, 2015
Pastel on textured paper, 9 x 11 in.
Friendship Elementary School, Coatesville, PA
on view through July 26
Imagine Brandywine is a series of multidisciplinary art projects created by area students and inspired by the collections and surroundings of the Brandywine River Museum of Art. The current display features work by first and fifth grade students from Friendship Elementary in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Under the direction of art teacher Mary Carol Sayles, the students took Horace Pippin's life and art, in particular still lifes, as a catalyst for their own expressive creations. Imagine Brandywine is sponsored by the Thorndale Rotary Club.