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Arts Playlist: Horace Pippin exhibition

 Horace Pippin was one of the first African American painters to earn national recognition in his lifetime and now an exhibition of his works is being offered at the The Brandywine River Museum of Art.

Known for his colorful and expressive paintings of history, war and family life in West Chester Pennsylvania, Pippin's work is all the more remarkable given the limited use of his right arm.


The artist was shot in his right shoulder while serving in World War I. To paint, Pippin used his left hand to support his right. The horrors of war are among the themes he explored in his painting.


Pippin was also an astute observer about the subjects he undertook, especially when it came to history. He completed two major series with historical themes, one on the life of abolitionist John Brown and the other on Abraham Lincoln.  


Although Pippin didn't paint in earnest until after he returned from the war, his artistic talents were clear from childhood. He was just 10 years old when he won a box of crayons in a local art contest.

Pippin considered his paintings realism, but to the art world of the 1930’s, he was a charming, naive folk artist, a portrayal Brandywine River Museum of Art Associate Curator Audrey Lewis says no longer applies.

“Today he would be considered a narrative painter or even under the rubric of modernism,” she explains. “His art has affinities with modern artists in terms of the reduction of form, the flatness, the simplicity, the boldness of color.”

Lewis maintains that Horace Pippin was an important artist for a number of  reasons. “Jacob Lawrence who was more or less Pippin’s contemporary, saw Pippin as a role model in terms of his subject matter and his persistence at painting and his persistence to keep his own vision,” she says. “In Pippin’s work, we see scenes of the war, scenes of racism, we see social commentary on other issues such as slavery and religion, and I think that all of those things are still relevant today and for that reason I think that Pippin will resonate with today’s audiences.”

“Horace Pippin: The Way I See It” on view at The Brandywine Museum of Art in Chadds Ford through July 19. For more information, visit

This piece is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.