John Brown Going to His Hanging

Horace Pippin

Pippin is recognized as one of the premier self-taught artists of this century. A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, he depicted his local environment in numerous images. He also explored historical subjects, such as this homage to the fiery abolitionist John Brown. A white man who became a martyr for the anti-slavery cause, Brown occupied a special place in African-American memory throughout much of the twentieth century. Pippin depicted him as a quietly heroic figure in three separate paintings: "John Brown Reading His Bible," "The Trial of John Brown" and this image. One of the artist's most famous works, "John Brown Going to His Hanging" pictures the controversial figure on the way to his death. A crowd has gathered to watch (presumably cheer) Brown's execution, the black woman at lower right who, scowling, refuses to participate in the event. According to family legend, Pippin's mother was present at the hanging. By including her - the only black figure in any of the artist's history paintings - Pippin emphasized his personal connection to Brown's legacy of black liberation. This work was exhibited in and purchased from the Pennsylvania Academy's 1943 annual exhibition.
Date of Birth
Oil on canvas
24 1/8 x 30 1/4 in. (61.2775 x 76.835 cm.)
Accession #
Credit Line
John Lambert Fund