Not surprisingly, I have a real affinity for self-taught and naive painters. Among my favorites is American Horace Pippin who lived from 1888 until 1946. He only produced about 140 paintings in his relatively short life but they are real gems, displaying a wonderfully sophisticated and more mature form of naivete. He achieved a pretty high level of recognition in his short career, being championed by a number of critics as well as artist N.C. Wyeth. The bulk of his work is now held in museums.
Though born in West Chester, PA, Pippin grew up in Goshen, NY, which interests me because I have three grand-nephews living there. Goshen was where he began his artistic journey after winning art supplies in a newspaper contest, using them to make drawings of the jockeys and horses at the famed Goshen racetrack. He was wounded in World War I, serving in the famed Harlem Hell Fighters, and turned to art in a more serious manner to strengthen his damaged right arm.
He married and moved back to West Chester and his work began to draw notice, appearing in numerous exhibits in museums and galleries alongside some of the giants of the art world. In 1946, he suffered a stroke and passed away.
As I said, he produced a fairly small number of paintings, many depicting the African American experience of the time along with a number of biblical and historical paintings, John Brown and Abe Lincoln being favorite subjects. They are a rich American treasure.
Here’s a nice video of much of his work with Ella Fitzgerald’s great Cry Me a River backing it.