Lot 18
  • 18

HORACE PIPPIN | Birmingham Meeting House in Spring

150,000 - 250,000 USD
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  • Horace Pippin
  • Birmingham Meeting House in Spring
  • inscribed FROM H. PIPPIN, 327 W. GAY ST/WEST CHESTER P.A. (on an original label affixed to the reverse)
  • oil on canvasboard
  • 17 5/8 by 23 7/8 inches
  • (44.8 by 60.6 cm)
  • Painted in 1940.


Carlen Galleries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Curtin Winsor and Elizabeth Roosevelt Winsor, Rosemont, Pennsylvania, 1940
Carlen Galleries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Acquired by the present owner from the above, by 1966


Birmingham, Pennsylvania, Octagonal Schoolhouse, 250th Anniversary of the Birmingham Meeting, October 1940
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Art Alliance, Horace Pippin Memorial Exhibition, April-May 1947, no. 26, n.p. (as Birmingham Meeting House No. 3)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Museum of Fine Art, Carnegie Institute; Washington, D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Three Self-Taught Pennsylvania Artists: Hicks, Kane, Pippin, October 1966-February 1967, illustrated p. 102
New York, ACA Galleries, Four American Primitives: Edward Hicks, John Kane, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, Horace Pippin, February-March 1972, no. 52, n.p., illustrated
Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection; New York, Terry Dintenfass Gallery; Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Brandywine River Museum, Horace Pippin, February-September 1977, no. 26, illustrated n.p.


Daily Local News, October 8, 1940, Township Clippings Files, Birmingham Township Churches, Society of Friends—Orthodox, Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, Pennsylvania, n.p.
Selden Rodman, Horace Pippin: A Negro Painter in America, New York, 1947, no. 56, p. 84 (as Birmingham Meeting House IV, 1942)
Judith E. Stein, I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1993, pp. 84, 198, illustrated fig. 72, p. 91
(forthcoming) Anne Monahan, Horace Pippin, American Modern, New Haven, Connecticut, 2020, illustrated n.p.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes, Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work on canvasboard has been restored. The paint layer is clean and varnished. The varnish illuminates the dark colors well. Under ultraviolet light, one can see that there are a few spots of retouching around the extreme edges addressing some old frame abrasion. The sky is unretouched. The cracking to the paint layer shows quite strongly under ultraviolet light in the side of the building but most of this is unretouched. The cracking in one of these angled trees against the roof has received retouching. The bottom of one of the tree trunks in front of the building has a retouched loss, and there is a retouching in the base of the trunk of tall dark tree furthest to the right. There are two retouches in the grass beneath the white shed on the far left of the building. There is a retouching in the lower left corner, and a couple of others within the tree trunks in the center of the right side. There are some other darker areas under ultraviolet light, but these do not seem to correspond to retouches. They are probably either areas that have been slightly more cleaned or original applications of paint. The work should be hung as is.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

We are grateful to Anne Monahan for preparing the following essay:

Birmingham Meeting House in Spring
is one of four paintings that Horace Pippin completed in 1940-41 of a local landmark in Birmingham Township, Pennsylvania, about four miles from his home in West Chester. The site was built in 1763 by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), whose members colonized the state in the seventeenth century, and similar houses of worship are still in use across the region.   As a wounded combat veteran of World War I, Pippin may have been sensitive to the meetinghouse’s history as a battlefield hospital in the Revolutionary War. Even so, he almost certainly took up the subject at the invitation of Christian Brinton, who was organizing an exhibition to mark the 250th anniversary of the meeting founded by his ancestor. The invitation is unsurprising because Brinton and Pippin had been collaborating since 1937, when the curator organized the artist’s first solo show in a move that burnished both their reputations.

Pippin developed Birmingham Meeting House in Spring after selling the first and largest iteration (Birmingham Meeting House, Myron Kunin Collection of American Art, Eden Prairie, Minnesota) in January 1940 to Violette de Mazia, associate of the collector Albert C. Barnes, a key champion of Pippin. The artist debuted the new painting in Brinton’s show in October as part of a day of festivities that attracted upwards of six hundred visitors to the site. News coverage named him, along with N.C. Wyeth, and Daniel Garber, among those with paintings of the building on view. He subsequently included Birmingham Meeting House in Late Summer (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.) in his 1940 solo show in New York and planned a fourth treatment for his 1941 solo show in Philadelphia, which he eventually completed as Birmingham Meeting House in Summertime of 1941 (Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania)

Much of this history has been effaced since Selden Rodman supplanted Pippin’s seasonal titles with Birmingham Meeting House I–IV (1940-42) in his landmark publication Horace Pippin: A Negro Painter in America of 1947, the first monograph devoted to an African American artist. That sequence imputes to the project a false coherence, establishes an erroneous order of production, and overstates the duration of Pippin’s engagement with the theme.

Pippin sold all four paintings quickly to prominent local collectors. Within days of the anniversary show, Curtin Winsor and his wife Elizabeth Roosevelt Winsor acquired Birmingham Meeting House in Spring with an enthusiasm typical of the Main Line elites who drove Pippin’s market in the early 1940s. They almost certainly obtained it from his Philadelphia dealer in exchange for Portrait of My Wife (Private collection), one of two canvases they bought at the opening of Pippin’s show in January. The painting was then in its current frame, which corresponds to those on other works by the artist.

We are grateful for the research conducted by Anne Monahan, author of the forthcoming publication, Horace Pippin, American Modern (Yale University Press, 2020).