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Object Details

Kenn Simpson
Between 1960 and 1980
oil on canvas board
Frame: 25 × 30 11/16 × 1 11/16 in. (63.5 × 78 × 4.3 cm)
Bright light bathes this still life by painter, printmaker, and art educator Kenn Simpson (1926-1986), a lifelong Washington, DC resident. In greys, browns, and whites, five vessels of varying sizes nestle into a white tablecloth whose craggy topography reflects Simpson’s painterly style. At the center of the oil painting on canvas stands a glass syrup pitcher with a metallic spout. To its left, a small creamer sits in front of a tall tea pot, while a parallel pair on the right features a large terracotta jug towering behind an earthenware pitcher in two shades of grey. The scene is set on a brown drop-leaf table with matching chairs that almost disappear under broad strokes of grey and white paint.
Simpson graduated from Dunbar High School, the renowned public school for African Americans in the District’s segregated system and earned his teaching certificate from DC Teachers College. Both institutions offered innovative art instruction developed by visionary art educator Thomas W. Hunster (1851-1929). He continued his studies at Howard University (AB), Catholic University (MFA), and with DC-based painter and printmaker Jack Perlmutter (2019.1.15). Joining colleagues who were also his artistic peers, such as William N. Buckner, Jr. (1888-1984) and Alma W. Thomas (1891-1978), Simpson taught art for three decades in DC public schools, including Kelly Miller Junior High, Roosevelt High School, and Woodson High School. Like Buckner, Thomas, and Hunster before them, he participated actively in local and national art communities, serving as president of the DC Art Association (DCAA), an organization founded by art educators in the DC public schools, and the National Conference of Artists. Simpson’s artwork was on display in several DCAA exhibitions at the Museum in the 1970s and featured posthumously in Inspiration: 1961-1989, the group’s retrospective in 1989.
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