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.
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