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History, Memory, and Authenticity in the Art of Horace Pippin

October 28, 2015  

Pippin 1940

The brief, meteoric career of the self-taught painter Horace Pippin (1888-1946) was inextricably bound up with his military service in World War I. A decorated and disabled veteran of the U.S. Army's storied 369th infantry, he began painting around 1930. His first images were combat scenes, presumably painted from memory, that brought him to the art world's attention within a decade. In the 1940s, at the height of his success, he revived references to his wartime experience--doughboys, trenches, armaments--in paintings that comment on World War II. Close attention to the full range of Pippin's images of war points up the complex ways in which he negotiated his nested identities as African American soldier, veteran, and citizen. NYU Washington, DC welcomed historian Anne Monahan as she explored the life and work of Horace Pippin. There was a brief introduction by Professor Jeffrey Sammons, co-author of Harlem's Rattlers and the Great War.  Pippin was a member of the unit to which the book is dedicated.

Anne Monahan

credit: Klaus Ottmann

Anne Monahan (Ph.D., University of Delaware) specializes in art of the twentieth century with attention to the dynamics of racial formation and the construction of modernism. As Chester Dale Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she is developing the book project “When Does a Primitive Cease to Be a Primitive:” Horace Pippin’s Challenge to Art Criticism, which maps the shifting territory between outside and inside the art world via close attention to the production, reception, and collection of work by the self-taught, African American artist and World War I combat veteran who occupied that space in the 1930s and 1940s. She is also developing the book manuscript Radical/Chic: Race, Politics, and the Legacy of Social Realism in Art of the 1960s, which traces how racial politics influenced a politics of style in projects by Romare Bearden in 1963, Faith Ringgold in 1967, and Philip Guston in 1970. Her research has appeared in Nka: The Journal of Contemporary African Art, The Archives of American Art Journal, and in exhibition and collection catalogues.


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