Victorian Interior II
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Victorian Interior II is among Horace Pippin's later works. It was painted in 1945, just a year before the artist died.
Pippin's self-taught, folk art style comes through beautifully in this piece: the bright hues of the rug, books, vases, and bouquet, the flat shapes of the furniture, and the simple straightforward perspective.
Here we see a room in near-perfect balance. A table with a bouquet sits front and center, flanked by chairs and small furniture. Two artworks hang on opposite sides of the canvas. Though Pippin was known for expressive paintings that critiqued war and sociopolitical injustice, he also created these calm interior worlds. Scenes like these seem to represent an ideal world Pippin envisioned—one of inviting tranquility and colorful harmony.
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Pippin joined the army and was sent overseas to fight in World War I as part of the African-American 369th Infantry, aka Harlem's Hell Fighters. During his service he was shot by a sniper, losing the use of his right arm. He returned home in the 1920s and began painting as a way of strengthening his arm: first by using a white hot poker to burn images into wood panels and fill them in with paint, and later by using his left hand to guide his right. His first major painting took three years to complete.
In 1938, Pippin became part of a traveling group exhibit with the Museum of Modern Art. After this, he had several solo shows in Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. His work would also be shown in a number of museums across the country.
Pippin is remembered both for his images of war and those of peace. He is widely known as the first Black American painter to use his artistic medium to express concern about war and socio-political injustice, but he also created a number of images depicting calm, balanced interiors and childhood memories. He once said, "Pictures just come to my mind and then I tell my heart to go ahead."
Because Pippin was self-taught, he is recognized as a folk artist. He never used shading or a complex perspective, gravitating toward bright colors, flat shapes, and straight lines instead. He is the first self-taught Black American artist to gain prominence in the art world at large. Though Pippin died in 1946, his impact lives on.
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