Horace Pippin, Mr. Prejudice, 1943. Oil on canvas, 18 x 14″ (Image courtesy of The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Matthew Moore)
Last summer I was strolling through the galleries of the new Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, surrounded by the exquisite paintings of Matisse, Modigliani, Cézanne, when a small painting of Abraham Lincoln and his father building a log cabin caught my eye. A wrinkled woman with fiery hair and dangling diamond earrings froze beside me, also awestruck. “Look at that one,” she said to a friend, staring up at the wall. “How beautiful. Who on earth painted it?”
The Barnes has one of the finest collections of French Impressionist and modern art in the world, and because of Alfred Barnes’s eccentric wall arrangements, holding a viewer’s attention is no small matter in a museum vibrating with Matisse’s raw colors and bulging with far too many plump, Renoir nudes.
That day in Philadelphia I opened my notebook and wrote the following:
And just so I wouldn’t forget, I underlined Pippin’s name three times. And then I starred it for good measure.