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“A thought of home”: Memorialising slavery and narrativising war in Horace Pippin’s Domestic Interiors and Exteriors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-166
JournalSlavery & Abolition
Issue number1
Early online date6 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


This article investigates twentieth-century African American artist and World War I combat veteran, Horace Pippin’s multifaceted yet under-examined narrative paintings. Coming to grips with his self-reflexive artistic strategies and his experimental practice in which he does justice to the pain of daily “suffering” in a search for the spiritual peace promised by a beautiful “sunset,” I examine the thematic and formal difficulties embedded in his determination to represent the ‘everyday’ lives of African American women, children, and men as liberated from a white supremacist US national context. Across his works, he bears witness to untold generations of Black strategies of resistance in the face of traumatic suffering not by emphasizing the exceptional atypicality but rather the “everydayness” of chattel slavery as a historical institution and of World War I as a modern European phenomenon. The overall purpose of this article is to challenge the existing criteria within which we define Pippin’s body of work – as repeatedly demarcated according to seemingly clear-cut categorisations as related either to World War I, slavery, history, religion or domesticity – in order to do justice to his lifelong conviction regarding “My life story of art, that is my art, and no one else.”

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