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Horace Pippin: From War to Peace


Injured during World War I, Horace Pippin turned to painting to help mend his body and spirit. In the process, he distinguished himself as one of the most original artists of his generation. This gathering of six paintings highlights Pippin’s pursuit of a range of themes, from racial violence and the alienation of war to the serene beauty of his home in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Tour of Duty

Horace Pippin (1888–1946) served in the 369th Infantry Regiment, a division of African American soldiers, during World War I. The unit was assigned to the French Army because so many white American soldiers refused to perform combat duty with black servicemen. Stationed on the front line, Pippin’s battalion was one of four African American regiments to see combat. Pippin, who was shot in the right shoulder, was one of many millions wounded in action.

Recovery in West Chester, PA

Several years after returning to his home in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Pippin turned to painting to help his physical and mental recovery. This new pursuit strengthened his injured arm and enabled him to process haunting memories of the war. He had been interested in art from a young age and had made drawings of his experiences while serving in the army, though he never had the opportunity to take formal art classes.

Working Style

Working on his own, Pippin developed a distinctive technique and style. To paint, he used his left arm to brace his right arm while he clasped his brush in his right hand. By the time his work began to receive public attention, he had become a strong and original artist who was able to distill his experiences and memories into images of great power and poignancy.

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Jessica T. Smith, The Susan Gray Detweiler Curator of American Art, and Manager, Center for American Art
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