Landmark Exhibition of Horace Pippin Works Comes to the Brandywine River Museum

Featuring more than 65 paintings, this historic exhibition will be on display from April 25 through July 19.


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“Horace Pippin: The Way I See It,” a major exhibition of more than 65 paintings of his work assembled from museums and private collections across the United States, will be on view April 25 through July 19. One of the leading figures of 20th-century art, Horace Pippin (1888-1946) is known for his bold, colorful and expressive paintings of family life, history, religion and war. The Brandywine River Museum of Art will be the only venue for this landmark exhibition. It takes 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 an 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 that comment on issues such as racism and social justice.

Pippin was born in West Chester, Pa., less than 10 miles from the Brandywine, but grew up in Goshen, N.Y. 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. 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. N.C. Wyeth and the art critic Christian Brinton first championed him locally in 1937, when they saw his work on display in a West Chester storefront. Pippin was quickly embraced nationally by museums, galleries, critics and collectors who valued the self-taught artist's style—characterized in his time as "primitive" or "naive"—for its perceived pureness of expression.

Patrons ranged from Albert Barnes and Edith Halpert to Hollywood figures such as Charles Laughton and Edward G. Robinson. Among the works in the exhibition is “The End of the War: Starting Home (1930-33),” a seminal work representing the horrors of a war that Pippin would later say "brought out all the art in me." A muted palette with bursts of red evokes the sense of desolation amidst the chaos of battle. It is Pippin's first known oil painting, demonstrating his early method of building layer upon layer of pigment in an almost sculptural manner. Pippin was an astute observer and well informed about the subjects he undertook, especially history. He completed two major series with historical themes, one on the life of the abolitionist John Brown, and the other on Abraham Lincoln. “John Brown Going to His Hanging” (1942) is one of Pippin's most visually and emotionally engaging paintings. Brown is portrayed at the center, sitting atop his coffin while being driven to the gallows. While the crowd looks on, a figure to the far right stares out from the painting, representing Pippin's mother who was said to have witnessed the event. The exhibition will be on display until July 19.

Also on view, through Aug. 23, is “Pointed Pens: Selected Cartoons from the Permanent Collection,” a fascinating collection of more than 30 works created between 1880 and 1945, selected from the museum's rich collection of American illustration. From the maze-like contraptions drawn by Rube Goldberg to the incisive political sketches of Thomas Nast, cartoons rivet public attention to issues of the day through their comic wit and visual satire. “Pointed Pens” includes cartoons by some of America's most famous illustrators of the late 19th through early 20th centuries, including Oscar Cesare, Charles Dana Gibson, John Held Jr., Edward Kemble, Rockwell Kent, Orson Lowell, Rose O'Neill, Frederic Burr Opper 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. www.brandywine.org

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