Introduction

No Tears: In Conversation with Horace Pippin


Fall 2021 – Winter 2022

The Artist’s Institute’s building, Casa Lally, is currently closed in accordance with Hunter College Covid-19 guidelines. We will open soon and encourage you to follow our program of online talks in anticipation of the physical exhibition.

I foresee the time when the painter will paint that scene, no longer going to Rome for a subject; the poet will sing it; the historian record it; and, with the Landing of the Pilgrims and the Declaration of Independence, it will be the ornament of some future national gallery, when at least the present form of slavery shall be no more here. We shall then be at liberty to weep for Captain Brown. Then, and not till then, we will take our revenge.

On Sunday October 30, 1859, Henry David Thoreau addressed the citizens of Concord, Massachusetts, to give his account of the character and actions of John Brown, as the abolitionist stood trial for murder, inciting an insurrection, and treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia. Two weeks earlier, Brown had led an unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, that Brown thought would be the spark to ignite rebellion by enslaved people across the South, and ultimately abolition throughout the nation. Brown’s powerful adversaries––many of whom, as members of the Confederacy during the Civil War, would go on to uphold the enslavement of Black people––portrayed him as a madman and a traitor. Despite the outcry from abolitionist allies including Thoreau, he was sentenced to hang on November 2. 

Decades after Brown’s death in 1942, painter Horace Pippin portrayed the moments leading up to the abolitionist’s execution in John Brown Going to His Hanging. This season of the Artist’s Institute is dedicated to this painting, examining the lasting influence of both John Brown and Horace Pippin in American culture. The Institute began studying the painting with Hunter College graduate students in January 2020, a semester whose final months found us in the streets protesting police brutality and racism––a sobering reminder that the liberation envisioned by Brown and his fellow abolitionists has not yet been realized in the United States. 

No Tears: In Conversation with Horace Pippin is co-presented with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which purchased Pippin’s painting from its annual exhibition in 1943. The season includes collaborations with ARTS.BLACK editors Jessica Lynne and Taylor Renee Aldridge, Dean Moss, and Dr. Brittany Webb, the Evelyn and Will Kaplan Curator of Twentieth-Century Art and the John Rhoden Collection at PAFA. It was organized by Jenny Jaskey, Director and Curator of the Artist’s Institute; Madeleine Seidel, Lazarus Curatorial Fellow; and developed out of a Curatorial Certificate seminar in the Department of Art & Art History at Hunter College.

Thanks to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, Kinkade Family Foundation, Carol and Arthur Goldberg Foundation-to-Life, Inc., Joan S. Davidson, Joan Lazarus, Robert Lehmann Foundation, and Peter and Fran Lubin, whose support made this season possible.