Horace Pippin: A Super Cool Artist That Everyone Should Know About

You people are about to get schooled on Horace Pippin–just in time for Memorial Day. I checked out this book from the library last week:

Best book in the whole dang world!

Don’t have it? GET IT.

Here’s the rundown: Horace Pippin, dude born in Pennsylvania in 1888. He loved to draw as a child, and won his first set of crayons and a box of watercolors when he sent a drawing to an art supply company’s advertising contest. He had to quit school in the 8th grade to support his big ginormous family after his dad left. He did a ton of odd jobs. He drew and painted here and there for fun.

Then Horace went to World War 1. He fought hard and he drew in his notebooks in the trenches–until he got shot in the arm. He couldn’t draw or paint anymore. He couldn’t even get a job after the war. But did that stop him? Nope. He led a boy scout troop. He umpired little kids’ baseball games. He helped with his wife’s laundry business.

Horace was so totes awesome.

One night Horace took a hot poker and tried drawing on wood by holding his right hand up with his left. Little by little, over time, he learned to draw again this way. His family was too poor for art supplies, so Horace used clean cloth for a canvas and painted with leftover house paint he found in alleyways.

It took him almost 3 years, working at night, to finish his first painting, called The End of War: Starting Home. It was 1930, and Horace was in his 40’s.

“When I was a boy I loved to make pictures but [World War I] brought out all the art in me….I can never forget suffering, and I will never forget sunset… so I came home with all of it in my mind and I paint from it today.” –Horace Pippin

Art therapy, anyone?

He made lots of paintings after that–of war and injustice, of Bible stories and childhood memories and historical events. He hung them in shoe stores and restaurants, asking $5 a pop. People thought they were nice but nobody bought them. And then one day someone noticed them and showed them to N.C. Wyeth (artist) and it didn’t take long for Horace’s art to get crazy famous. The end.

Um so let’s recap: Horace Pippin–a middle-aged, African-American (in the 1920’s–a *fantastic time to be black–*that’s sarcasm), disabled war veteran with an eighth-grade education and a family to feed, who never even officially studied art–overcame ri-donk-ulous odds to create these:


1930: The End of War: Starting Home

1941: Self Portrait

1941: Self Portrait

1943: Mr. Prejudice

1943: Mr. Prejudice

1946: Man on a bench

1946: Man on a bench

…and all while propping up his right hand with his left.

I would say that this man served his country long after the war ended, am I right? Because dem puppies is gorgeous.

And Horace Pippin is my new favorite.


About Toni

Mom. Wife. Artist. I take care of the kids and pretend to clean sometimes. I can cook spagetti and I have never been arrested. View all posts by Toni

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