About This Artwork

Horace Pippin
American, 1888–1946

Cabin in the Cotton, c. 1931–1937

Oil on cotton mounted on Masonite
51 x 85 cm (20 x 33 1/2 in.)
Signed lower right: H. PIPPIN

Restricted gift in memory of Frances W. Pick from her children Thomas F. Pick and Mary P. Hines, 1990.417

A native of Pennsylvania, the self-taught Horace Pippin achieved widespread fame when this painting drew the attention of artist-illustrator N. C. Wyeth in 1937. Constructed of dense, thick layers of paint that convey tactility and texture, Cabin in the Cotton is considered an exemplar of Pippin’s untutored style. The painting is primarily interpreted biographically, as an expression of his African-American heritage; however, the widespread fascination with southern life and culture in the 1930s may also have driven his choice of motif. In that decade, Bing Crosby and Cab Calloway sang songs entitled “Cabin in the Cotton,” and Bette Davis starred in a movie of the same title.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

West Chester, Pa., Art Centre, Art Association and School Board of West Chester, Chester County Art Association Sixth Annual Exhibition, May 23-June 6, 1937, cat. 20 (Upper Hallway).

West Chester, Pa., Community Center, Chester County Art Association and West Chester Community Center, Horace Pippin: Paintings and Burnt Wood Panels, June 8-July 5, 1937, cat. 2.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Masters of Popular Painting, April 27-July 24, 1938, cat. 167; traveled to Northampton, Ma., Smith College Museum of Art; Louisville, Ky., Louisville Art Association; Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art, December 21, 1938-January 22, 1939; Kansas City, Mo., William Rockland Nelson Gallery of Art; Houston, Tex., Houston Museum of Fine Art; Los Angeles, Ca., Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art; San Francisco, Ca., San Francisco Museum of Art.

Philadelphia, Carlen Galleries, Paintings by Horace Pippin, January 19-February 18, 1940, cat. 2.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin, January 13-April, 10, 1994; traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago, April 28-July 10, 1994; Cincinnati Art Museum, July 28-October 9, 1994; Washington, D.C., National Museum of American Art, October 27-January 22, 1995.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Collecting: African American Art in the Art Institute of Chicago, February 15-May 18, 2003, no cat.

Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Brandywine River Museum of Art, Horace Pippin: The Way I See It, April 25-July 19, 2015.

Publication History

“Primitivist Pippin,” Time 35, 5 (January 29, 1940), p. 56.

Selden Rodman, Horace Pippin: A Negro Painter in America (Quadrangle Press, 1947), pp. 13, 14, 82, pl. 6.

Arthur Miller, “Laughton, Art Lover,” Art Digest, 23, 10 (February 15, 1949), p, 9.

Selden Rodman and Carole Cleaver, Horace Pippin: The Artist as a Black American (Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1972), pp. 68, 70, 73, 75.

Judith E. Stein, et al, "I Tell My Heart": The Art of Horace Pippin, exh. cat. (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in association with Universe Publishing, 1993), pp. 8, 10, 40n, 147-48, 161, 187, 195, ill. fig. 155.

Art Institute of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture, selected by James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), p. 84, ill.

Kirsten P. Buick, “Portfolio,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 24, 2 (1999), pp. 194-195, no. 6.

Julie L. McGee, "Field, Boll, and Monument: Toward an Iconography of Cotton in African American Art," International Review of African American Art 19, 1 (2003), pp. 38-39, ill. 46.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 97.

"Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, Highlights of the Collection," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2017) p. 119.

Ownership History

The artist, West Chester, Pa.; sold to Charles Laughton, Hollywood, Ca., in 1940, until at least 1947. Sold by Ulrike Kantor Gallery, Los Angeles, to the Art Institute in 1990.

View mobile website