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Rose Piper

October 7, 1917 - May 11, 2005


Rose Theodora Piper was an American painter and textile designer. A New York native she first became known for her semi-abstract, blues, and folk music-inspired oil paintings. Piper gained critical national acclaim after her 1947 exhibition at the Roko Gallery in New York. The show– called Blues and Negro Folk Songs– was Piper’s first solo show, making her one of only four African-American abstract painters to have a solo exhibition in New York at the time. Piper explored themes of the American South, blackness, and the blues in her works of the 1940s, using her experience traveling in the south through her first Rosenwald grant as inspiration. Her abstract works are characterized by flat coloring, geometrical styling, and aggrandized human features which reflect the soulful emotions of blues music. Due to financial hardships, Piper moved to textile designing and created a prosperous career in fashion. Upon retiring from her textile work, Piper returned to painting in the 1980s with a new style– still inspired by African-American music. The human figure remained her favorite subject throughout her painting career. Her new works of the 80s– as shown in her 1989 solo show Slave Song Series– were miniature and incredibly detailed in nature, with an emphasis on colorful acrylics, and a continued focus on the black experience in America.

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