Victorian Interior II by Horace Pippin
8"x10" ($24) | 11"x14" ($60) | 16"x20" ($240)
Our new edition release is right on cue to up the cozy factor for those of us currently battling winter storm Stella. And by battling we mean wearing sweatpants, working from home, and rationalizing the consumption of enormous quantities of hot chocolate.
What better time to take a hit of art history than mid-blizzard? If you don’t know Horace Pippin’s name, do yourself a solid and keep scrolling for the 411 on the painter—whose story reads like a cinematic triumph—and today’s compelling print.
Chock full of talent from a young age, Pippin was entirely self-taught. He won a magazine drawing contest at ten years old and received his first set of crayons and watercolors as his prize, an early exercise of his artistic tendencies. He had to withdraw from his education only a few years later to help his family makes ends meet—working as a farm hand, hotel porter and iron molder—but continued to explore art in tandem.
With World War I roaring, Pippin joined the army and was sent overseas as part of the 369th Infantry, aka the famous Harlem Hellfighters—the first primarily Black regiment, known for their tenacity. While in the trenches, Pippin recorded his experience in an illustrated journal, artmaking against the bleakest of backdrops.
After being shot by a sniper, Pippin lost the use of his right arm and returned home in the 1920s. He took up painting as a means of strengthening his injured arm, using his left hand to guide his right. By the late 1930s, critics were abuzz about his work.
Pippin’s oeuvre is often described as folk art for its auto-didactic origins and rejection of shading and complex perspective. Painted in 1945—just a year before the artist died—Victorian Interior II is among Pippin's later works. The folk art elements of his style echo across this piece, coming to light in the vibrant, varied color palette, the flat shapes of the furniture and the starkly straightforward perspective.
Though these aesthetic qualities carried through much of Pippin’s work, the artist is perhaps best remembered for his subject matter. Pippin is widely regarded as the first self-taught Black American to gain prominence in the art world at large, and the first Black American painter to use his medium to call attention to the horrors of war and realities of socio-political injustice. Slavery and American segregation were particular focal points. Even his images of everyday Black American life were political by nature at a time when Black humanity was overtly under fire.
Which brings us back to today’s edition. In Victorian Interior II we see a room in near-perfect balance—the bouquet sits centered atop a table, flanked by two nearly identical chairs, two similarly sized furniture arrangements at the outermost edge. Two artworks hang on opposite sides of the visual plane.
Though Pippin was known for his political works, he also painted childhood memories, scenes from quotidian life, and placid interior worlds like Victorian Interior II. These renderings are another aspect of Pippin’s artistic identity. For all the injustice in the path of his paintbrush, these tranquil, harmonious paintings tell us Pippin was also accustomed to hope—to imagining an ideal world. That's an inspiring sentiment worth anyone's walls.
With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200