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A heart-felt look at Horace Pippin

A Splash of Red:
The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet

Knopf. $17.99. Ages 5 and up
 

A Splash of Red is not just clever, identifying in the title what you can always find in both the work of its subject, renowned local self-taught African-American painter Horace Pippin, but also in the many drawings in writer Jen Bryant’s and illustrator Melissa Sweet’s book itself.

A Splash of Red is also heart-felt and personal, showing that Pippin’s love of drawing overcame formidable obstacles, from the poverty of his upbringing to a severe injury in World War I to his right arm, the one he drew with.

The recurring refrain, “Make a picture for us, Horace,” punctuates his many jobs and venues, from his hometown of West Chester, PA, to the battlefields of France, where a bullet to his right shoulder rendered his right hand unable to draw except with guidance and support from his left hand. Still, he followed the importuning of those around him and his own desire to keep drawing until he was discovered by Brandywine Valley’s famous painter N.C. Wyeth from paintings Pippin hung in a local West Chester shoe-store window and was selling for $5 apiece.

The illustrations include many miniatures of the artist’s work in evocative interpretations that do not copy the artist but do show what his work is like, including the ubiquitous splash of red.

Frank Lipsius is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

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