The self-taught artist Horace Pippin turned to art after his right arm was disabled by a sniper’s bullet while serving in the African American regiment known as the “Harlem Hellfighters” during World War I. After the war, Pippin settled in his hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania, and by the late 1930s his work had attracted the interest of such notables as the artist N. C. Wyeth, critic Christian Brinton, and collector Albert Barnes.
This painting belongs to a series of semi-autobiographical domestic interiors that Pippin painted from 1941 until his death in 1946, the best known among them being Domino Players (1943, The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC). Most of these scenes represent members of African American families pursuing a variety of domestic activities in a single multipurpose room. The paintings all have the same quiet, peaceful ambience and feature many of the same common household items, such as rag rugs, quilts, a stove, and an alarm clock. What distinguishes Interior and gives added significance to the work’s title is the way the three figures, instead of interacting, have turned their backs to each other and seem lost in their own inner worlds.
Interior represents a mother and her two children on a winter evening. The room is sparsely furnished. Frozen snow has accumulated at the window in the center background, and the alarm clock to the right indicates that it is six o’clock. The mother sits in front of a stove and smokes a pipe as steam rises from a kettle in front of her. Her profile pose and self-absorbed attitude recall
This painting belongs to series of semi-autobiographical domestic interiors that Pippin painted from 1941 until his death in 1946, the best known among them being Domino Players
The most striking and paradoxical aspect of Interior is the incongruence between the impenetrable black night outside and its inexplicably bright, uniformly lit room. Many of Pippin’s other nocturnal scenes, such as Abe Lincoln, The Great Emancipator (1942, Museum of Modern Art) or Saying Prayers
Alain Locke, "Horace Pippin," in Horace Pippin Memorial Exhibition (Philadelphia, PA, 1947), n. p.
September 29, 2016
lower right: H.PIPPIN,
(Robert Carlen Galleries, Philadelphia); Mr. [1891-1973] and Mrs. [1893-1968] R. Sturgis Ingersoll, Esq., Philadelphia; Mr. and Mrs. Irving H. Vogel, Philadelphia; Mrs. A. Lewis Spitzer; (ACA Galleries, New York); purchased 1972 by Meyer P. [1909-2001] and Vivian O. [1915-2002] Potamkin, Philadelphia; gift 1991 to the NGA.
- Horace Pippin Memorial Exhibition, The Art Alliance, Philadelphia, 1947, no. 36, as Interior of Cabin.
- Four American Primitives: Edward Hicks, John Kane, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, Horace Pippin, ACA Galleries, New York, 1972, no. 64, repro.
- Horace Pippin, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Terry Dintenfass Gallery, New York; Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, 1977, no. 39, repro.
- Art for the Nation: Gifts in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1991, unnumbered catalogue, color repro.
- I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Art Institute of Chicago; Cincinnati Art Museum; Baltimore Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1994-1995, fig. 146.
- All the Art in Me: In Search of Horace Pippin, Reading Public Museum, Pennsylvania, 2003, no catalogue.
- Horace Pippin: The Way I see It, Brandywine River Museum of Art, Chadds Ford, 2015, pl. 51.
- Rodman, Selden. Horace Pippin: A Negro Painter in America. New York, 1947: 86, no. 81.
- Bantel, Linda, with Susan Danly and Jeanette Toohey. "The Potamkin collection of American art." Antiques 136, vol. 2 (August 1989): 297 pl. IX, 299.
- Lewis, Audrey M., ed. Horace Pippin: The Way I See It. Exh. cat. Brandywine River Museum of Art, Chadds Ford. New York, 2015: 9, 77, 142, repro.
The lightweight, plain-weave fabric support is unlined, and remains mounted on its original stretcher. The tacking margins are intact. An additional ground may have been applied over large areas of crackle in the commercially prepared white ground layer. As was his practice during this period, the artist left an approximately ¼-inch border of exposed ground on all four edges of the painting, probably to ensure that the design would not be cropped by the frame’s lip.
Mark F. Bockrath and Barbara A. Buckley, “Materials and Techniques,” in Judith Stein, I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin (Philadelphia, PA, 1993), 168.