Horace Pippin was an African-American painter. He was born around 1888—just twenty-three years after the Civil War and the end of slavery. His grandparents were slaves, and his parents were domestic workers.
Pippin liked to draw and would illustrate his spelling words in school. But his family could not afford art materials. At age ten, he won a box of crayons in a magazine drawing contest and started coloring. He left school at age fourteen to help his family. He worked on a farm, as a porter at a hotel, and as an iron molder in a factory.
In 1917, Pippin went to France to fight in World War I. His right arm was badly injured in the war. He returned home, married, and settled in Pennsylvania. Because of his injury, he worked odd jobs and barely made a living.
At the age of forty Pippin found a way—even with his crippled right hand—to draw on wood using a hot poker. He made many burnt-wood art panels. Pippin decided to try painting with oil. He used his "good" left hand to guide his crippled right hand, which held the paintbrush, across the canvas. It took him three years to finish his first painting.
Pippin went on to paint his memories of soldiers and war, and scenes from his childhood. He said, "The pictures . . . come to me in my mind and if to me it is a worthwhile picture I paint it . . . I do over the picture several times in my mind and when I am ready to paint it I have all the details I need."
He also painted historical subjects, such as Abraham Lincoln and John Brown, and scenes from the Bible. At first, he made only about four paintings per year.