Illustration by Horace Pippin, 1940

Narrative, History and Memory: Representing World War I in African American Visual Culture

On 12th December, Celeste-Marie Bernier will give a lecture, ‘Narrative, History and Memory: Representing World War I in African American Visual Culture.

This is the second of five lectures by visiting speakers throughout 2011/12 to mark the launch of the Art History and Visual Culture initiative at the University of Exeter.
Celeste-Marie Bernier is Associate Professor of American Literature at the University of Nottingham, and has worked extensively on African American Visual Culture, in particular representations of slavery and race.

This talk addresses the widespread neglect of African American artist, Horace Pippin, within European American as well as African American art history, and will recontextualise, retheorise and reexamine his life and works with a particular emphasis upon his World War I paintings and illustrations.

More particularly, this talk will investigate his self-reflexive relationship to aesthetics, narrative, politics and history as he dramatised his 'life story of art' across diverse drawings, illustrations and oil paintings as well as his unpublished prose and correspondence.

The lecture extrapolates from Pippin's experiences as a combat soldier fighting in front line trenches and suffering from horrific, racist conditions. It will examine Pippin's insistence that art was a way to exorcise his 'blue spells' but also to re-evaluate his work in relation to his declarations of artistic independence, as he informed his sponsors, "Don't tell me how to paint." In this regard, this lecture will problematise popular representations of Pippin variously as an untutored naïf, a spiritual visionary and an indigenous painter in order to examine his significance as an artist, period.

In forceful ways, Pippin's dramatic canvases and sketches bear witness to his powerful conviction, "I cannot forget suffering and I will not forget sunset."


12 December 2011, 5:00pm

Free Event. Advance booking recommended via

Lecture followed by a drinks reception.

Date: 2 December 2011

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