A majestic biography of the pioneering African American artist
Suffering and Sunset
World War I in the Art and Life of Horace Pippin
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For self-made artist and World War I soldier Horace Pippin—who served in the 369th African American infantry—war provided a formative experience that defined his life and work. His transformation of combat service into canvases and autobiographies whose emotive power, psychological depth, and haunting realism showed his view of the world revealed his prowess as a painter and writer. In Suffering and Sunset, Celeste-Marie Bernier painstakingly traces Pippin’s life story of art as a life story of war.
Illustrated with more than sixty photographs, including works in various media—many in full color—this is the first intellectual history and cultural biography of Pippin. Working from newly discovered archives and unpublished materials, Bernier provides an in-depth investigation into the artist’s development of an alternative visual and textual lexicon and sheds light on his work in its aesthetic, social, historical, cultural, and political contexts.
Suffering and Sunset illustrates Pippin’s status as a groundbreaking African American painter who not only suffered from but also staged many artful resistances to racism in a white-dominated art world.
"Suffering and Sunset is an engaged consideration of Horace Pippin as an African American artist and World War I veteran who was forever changed by his experiences in the trenches. Celeste-Marie Bernier examines Pippin’s writings and art as linked creative forms through which Pippin described the European battlefield and the ways its violence permeated his thinking after he returned to the United States. Noting that Pippin volunteered to join the war effort, Bernier finds in his images and texts a shift to an anti-war perspective. In Bernier’s hands, Pippin’s work is a rich historical archive that also stands as a testament to his determination to represent his era."
“Bernier painstakingly examines Pippin’s manuscripts, paintings, and sketches to show how his meager written legacy casts revealing light on his other works…. The author analyzes Pippin’s work in exhaustive…detail, comparing the scant information of his wartime experience with the stark monotones in his paintings…. [The] in-depth analyses [are] filled with learned conjecture.”
"[A] provocative, meticulously researched, multidisciplinary, and multilayered interpretation of the paintings and autobiographical writings of Horace Pippin.... Through extensive and ground-breaking archival work, she offers, throughout the book, intriguing and previously unknown information about Pippin’s family history, including the likely identity of his mother and the misconception that Pippin was the grandchild or son of slaves.... Bernier presents an innovative recovery and repositioning of Pippin’s written archive."
"In this generously illustrated intellectual history and cultural biography, Bernier makes a persuasive case for [Pippin] being one of the 20th century's most groundbreaking artists."
"Suffering and Sunset is an important book, not only because of the reputation of the artist, the paucity of scholarly examinations of his war work, and the array of evidence Bernier brings to her study but as a model for how a richly interdisciplinary study can add both basic knowledge and nuance to a monographic study of one individual. This book should be equally valuable to the historian of American art, those concerned with African-American studies, and broader cultural studies as well."
List of Figures and Color Plates
Part I: A Life Story of War Is a Life Story of Art
Part II: War and Writing in the Life of Horace Pippin
Part III: War and Painting in the Life of Horace Pippin
“I am a lone”: Debate, Discovery, and Controversy in the Life and Letters of Horace Pippin
Celeste-Marie Bernier is Professor of Black Studies and Personal Chair in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. She is the author of Characters of Blood: Black Heroism in the Transatlantic Imagination and African American Visual Arts: From Slavery to the Present.