History, Memory, and Authenticity in the Art of Horace Pippin
October 28, 2015
The brief, meteoric career of the self-taught painter Horace Pippin (1888-1946) was inextricably bound up with his military service in World War I. A decorated and disabled veteran of the U.S. Army's storied 369th infantry, he began painting around 1930. His first images were combat scenes, presumably painted from memory, that brought him to the art world's attention within a decade. In the 1940s, at the height of his success, he revived references to his wartime experience--doughboys, trenches, armaments--in paintings that comment on World War II. Close attention to the full range of Pippin's images of war points up the complex ways in which he negotiated his nested identities as African American soldier, veteran, and citizen.
NYU Washington, DC welcomed historian Anne Monahan as she explored the life and work of Horace Pippin. There was a brief introduction by Professor Jeffrey Sammons, co-author of Harlem's Rattlers and the Great War. Pippin was a member of the unit to which the book is dedicated.
Anne Monahan received her Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Delaware. She was also granted the Chester Dale Fellowship from 2015 to 2016. Anne Monahan is an independent scholar who specializes in modern and contemporary art. She is working on the book projects Neo-Primitive: Horace Pippin and American Modernism in the 1930s and 1940s and Radical/Chic: The Legacy of Social Realism in Art of the 1960s.
Jeffrey T. Sammons is a professor of history at New York University, where he has taught since 1989 in addition to having served previously as the department's director of graduate studies. Sammons earned his B.A. in history at Rutgers College. He earned a masters degree in history from Tufts University in 1974 and became assistant to the President of Lincoln University, before receiving a Whitney M. Young Memorial Fellowship for Leadership Potential in 1975. Sammons earned a PhD in American History from the University of North Carolina in 1982. From there, he took a position as an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Houston. In 1983-84 he was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Cape Town.
After his return from South Africa, Sammons became involved in the anti-apartheid movement and played an important role in the City of Houston's disinvestment campaign. Sammons continued his community service as long-time director of the Julius Chambers Invitational, a major fundraiser for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and now serves as a board member of the Clearview Legacy Foundation, a black built, founded, owned, and operated golf course on the National Historic Registry in East Canton, Ohio; as a member of the Museum Committee of the United States Golf Association; and as a member of the USGA/PGA African-American Golf Archive working group. Sammons also has served as President and Secretary of the Beta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at NYU and was a National Senator of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
In 1987, Sammons was named a Henry Rutgers Research Fellow at Rutgers University-Camden and completed his critically acclaimed Beyond the Ring: The Role of Boxing in American Society. In 2001 Sammons was awarded a fellowship by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and History and soon after received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for 2002-2003 in support of his recently published Harlem's Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the Quest for African American Equality (University Press of Kansas, April 2014). In addition, The New York State Archives Partnership Trust and the New York State Archives awarded Sammons a Larry J. Hackman Research Residency grant in support of the same project. He is also a History Adviser to the World War I Centennial Commission.
Sammons has written widely on the subject of sport and race and has participated in and consulted on numerous documentary projects with independent filmmakers as well as large television networks. He is now deeply involved in efforts to collect, preserve, and present that which relates to the African-American experience in golf and in March of 2013, his efforts paid large dividends with the induction of James R. Devoe into the PGA Golf Hall of Fame. Devoe along with William Powell of Clearview were the first African Americans so honored. The former will be the vehicle that drives Sammons' new book project on race and golf. Sammons has served on the editorial boards of The Journal of Sport History and Sport and Social Issues. He has also taught at Princeton University and at Hollins College (Roanoke, Va.) as a Jessie Ball DuPont Scholar.