The Brandywine River Museum recently purchased a major painting by Horace Pippin, a prominent national artist from West Chester. Entitled "Birmingham Meeting House III," the painting depicts the 18th-century Quaker building that still stands four miles south of West Chester. The painting is on view in the museum's first-floor gallery.
Horace Pippin, one of America's most important 20th-century untutored artists, was severely wounded in his right arm during World War I and turned to painting in the late 1920s. Self-taught, he demonstrated enormous talent for rendering bold, engaging compositions that expressed keen observation and feeling for his community and personal experiences. His work drew the attention of artist N.C. Wyeth and others.
Wyeth promoted the first exhibition of Pippin's work in 1937 at the Chester County Art Association. The following year, Pippin's paintings were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, and his work was purchased by many collectors, including Albert Barnes, founder of The Barnes Foundation.
"Birmingham Meeting House III" is one of four works the artist painted between 1940 and 1942 that depicts the historic building, which served as a shelter and temporary hospital for both George Washington's and British General Howe's forces during the Battle of Brandywine in 1777. Pippin's painting captured the building's façade and park-like setting, with attention to the textures of quarried stone, tree bark and dark leaves.
The painting's acquisition was made possible in part by by the Museum Volunteers' Art Purchase Fund, which raises money through its annual sale of "critter" ornaments made from natural materials. The painting joined three other works by Pippin already in the museum's collection: "Saying Prayers" (1943), "Potted Plant in Window" (1943), and "Floral Still Life" (not dated).