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Remembering "The Color Line"

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

Remembering "The Color Line"

Cover Image: Europe, Smith, and Pippin - Three African-American Artists from the Great War to Modernity
Screenshot from Fondation Giacometti Website

When I read the title of the upcoming conference offered by the Fondation-Giacometti in Paris:

"Jim Europe, Albert Alexander Smith, and Horace Pippin - Three African-American Artists from the Great War to Modernity,"

and learned that art historian and curator Daniel Soutif would deliver the presentation, I was immediately transported to November 2016 and the opening of the gigantesque exhibition The Color Line at the Musée du quai Branly Jacques Chirac.

Soutif curated this show, about which I wrote a two-part blog post:

The Color Line - Part 1

The Color Line - Part 2

Numerous works by Smith and Pippin were included in the exhibition.

The Ending of the War, Starting Home
Horace Pippin
Oil on canvas, 1930-1933
Philadelphia Museum of Art
CC-BY-SA 4.0

Untitled (Men in Box Cars)
Albert Alexander Smith
Graphite on Paper, 1918
Photo © Discover Paris!

Europe, Smith, and Pippin all served in World War I.

Europe and Smith were musicians.  Smith and Pippin were visual artists.

Europe and Pippin were part of the famous 369th Infantry Regiment, better known as the Harlem Hellfighters.  Smith was part of the 807 Pioneer Band, one of many African-American units that did not see combat.

James Reese (Jim) Europe is the most legendary of the African Americans to serve during World War I because of his role in the recruitment and leadership of the Harlem Hellfighters military band and his tragic death after returning to the U.S. from France. 

Horace Pippin was permanently disabled by a sniper's bullet during combat in 1918 and retroactively awarded a Purple Heart in 1945.  He created many works based on war themes well after his return to the U.S. in 1919.

Smith created numerous drawings of the daily life of soldiers serving in the European war theater.  The Musée du Temps Besançon acquired 65 of these works in 1981 and loaned several of them to The Color Line.

"Jim Europe, Albert Alexander Smith, and Horace Pippin - Three African-American Artists from the Great War to Modernity" will be the fifth conference featuring black artists or addressing race and racism through the lens of visual art that the Institut Giacometti's Ecole de Modernité has hosted since September 2019.

To register for this French-language conference, which will be held on May 26, 2021 at 6:30 PM, click HERE.