Horace Pippin, of Pennsylvania, completed his first oil painting in 1930 when he was more than 40 years old. By that time, he’d lived a whole lot of life. The grandchild of slaves, Pippin had worked, and studied, and worked, and drawn, and worked some more, until World War I broke out and Horace left for France.
Not only was the trench warfare he experienced there horrific, Horace was shot in his right shoulder. This injury severely limited his use of that arm for the rest of his life.
Yet Horace hungered to paint so much that he taught himself to grasp his right wrist with his good left hand and guide it along, first burning designs into wood, then picking up a paint brush and painstakingly creating over 140 paintings. Horace painted scenes of the war, and scenes of common life, scenes of nature, and Bible stories.
A self-taught artist, Pippin’s work has a primitive feel — plain in perspective, yet rich in appreciation for the beauty of ordinary aspects of life — women at work in the home, children playing, men singing on a street corner. He often painted in bright splashes of color — rag rugs and quilts, head scarves and the glowing fire of a woodstove, sing out to
us of the joy Pippin found in the commonplace.
Jen Bryant has written a wonderful biography of Pippin, crammed with juicy, vivid descriptions of Horace’s life and art. The darkness of war is there, the grit and toughness of life is there, but washing through the entire account is a wave of joy. Beautifully cohesive, concrete, and absorbing, this is a winner for ages 5 and up.
Melissa Sweet’s exuberant illustrations in watercolor, gouache, and mixed media are as enticing as a new box of crayons! So much lavish color! If you look at a selection of Pippin’s work on-line, you will have great fun spotting bits and pieces of his artwork incorporated into her illustrations. Really fun! Wonderful, hand-lettered quotes from Pippin are set into a number of pages.
A lengthy historical note, notes from author and illustrator about their process of creating this book, and many leads for further investigation of Pippin’s art, are included. They say we have some of his work in Minneapolis, but I could not figure out where it is held. New in 2013, this book fairly bursts with life and beauty.
Here’s the Amazon link: A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin