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Horace Pippin

Old Black Joe
1943
oil
24 x 30 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

Horace Pippin’s Old Black Joe is an interpretation of plantation life and the lot of African American slaves. “Joe,” too old for fieldwork, lives out his last years tending a child whose mother watches from the porch of a stately mansion in the distance. The tether that connects him to the child reminds us that “Joe” was earlier bound to a life picking cotton in the fields that stretch behind him.