Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is supporting the completion of


the first full-length documentary about Beauford.

Join us in making this video tribute to Beauford a reality!


Saturday, August 17, 2019

Beauford at the Luxembourg Garden

The Luxembourg Garden is my favorite place in Paris.

So I was tickled to read in correspondence between two of Beauford's dearest friends, Charley Boggs and Larry Calcagno, that Beauford enjoyed the garden as well!

Boggs wrote to Calcagno that he and Beauford visited the garden in early April 1965 and enjoyed the spring weather, sitting in the sun and watching the children play with their sailboats at the octagonal pond near the palace. He left Beauford there, sitting in a rented chair, while he went back to his atelier.

For those of you who are not familiar with the garden, here are some photos of the area mentioned in Boggs' letter.

Boat basin
© Discover Paris!

Father assists daughter with sailboat
© Discover Paris!

Children on a field trip
© Discover Paris!

Motorboats at the basin
© Discover Paris!

Fountain in boat basin
© Discover Paris!

Happily, sitting in chairs at the garden is now free of charge!


We're staging a reading of the Beauford Delaney play
Amazing Grace is Yellow
in Paris on October 16, 2019.

You can become a part of Beauford's legacy by supporting this event!

"Adopt an actor" to contribute 450€ or $500 for rehearsals and the actual reading by clicking HERE!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Beauford Delaney: A Study in Portraiture

On August 6, 2019, the Wells International Foundation (WIF) announced the opening for Beauford Delaney: A Study in Portraiture. This digital exhibition, curated by Maija Brennan, examines the evolution of Beauford’s style as he rendered images of persons he loved and admired.

Brennan is WIF’s 2019 summer intern. A rising senior at Smith College, she is majoring in art history – with a concentration in museum studies – and French. She is interested in learning how non-profit organizations work to fund artists and help them show their work and is passionate about making art available to the general public. She is especially interested in exploring how contemporary artists who struggle to promote their work can “even the playing field” using technology.

Maija Brennan
Wells International Foundation 2019 Summer Intern
Image courtesy of Wells International Foundation

WIF’s founder and CEO, Dr. Monique Y. Wells, learned of Brennan’s interest in WIF’s Summer Internship Program through Columbia Global Centers | Paris. Brennan was finishing her junior year abroad there when her French professor, who also served as Associate Director of Smith College in Paris, introduced her to Dr. Wells. She had been made aware of the 2016 art exhibition, Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color, that WIF organized at Columbia Global Centers | Paris, and was excited about the prospect of creating a project around this artist’s work.

Brennan spent six weeks compiling research on Delaney’s art production, focusing on his portraiture and how these works represent some of the most important relationships in his life. She investigated the evolution of the composition and style of Delaney’s portraits as he matured as an artist and produced increasing numbers of Abstract Expressionist paintings. Based on this research, she selected several works for the exhibition.

Beauford Delaney: A Study in Portraiture presents portraits from three periods in Delaney’s life – the years he spent in Boston, New York City, and Paris. A fourth segment of the exhibition presents several self-portraits from the New York and Paris years. A timeline of the artist’s life provides additional perspective on each segment of the exhibition.

A large part of the challenge of creating this exhibition in a format that is easily navigable and pleasing to view on all kinds of devices, from widescreen desktop computers to smartphones. Viewers can click on each portrait to access a larger image and one to two paragraphs of information on a dedicated page about the work.

Another important aspect of the process was planning and implementing the marketing strategy that would make the exhibition known to the public. Brennan evaluated how to maximize her existing social media connections, strengthen profiles and make new connections that she will heavily rely upon in her professional life, and incorporate the many blog posts she wrote about Delaney’s portraits into her strategy. She formulated a plan over the course of a week and implemented the plan during the last week of her internship.

Instagram post announcing A Study in Portraiture
Detail of Café Scene (1966)
Image courtesy of Maija Brennan

On July 29, Brennan presented an extensive preview of the exhibition to a study abroad group from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. (Knoxville was Beauford’s hometown.) The students were enrolled in the "Art History in Paris" course taught by Professor Mary Campbell. Professor Campbell wrote the critique of A Study in Portraiture found on the exhibition Web site.

Maija Brennan presents exhibition to UTK students
Image courtesy of the Wells International Foundation

A total of twenty-one (21) portraits are displayed in the exhibition. The full depth and breadth of Delaney’s artistic genius are represented in the works selected for this online show.

Brennan had the following to say about the exhibition:

Beauford Delaney was an astonishingly talented painter whose works hang in some of today’s most culturally and artistically important institutions. I hope that this digital exhibit can be a reference point and educational tool for those who want to further their understanding of his life and art in the same way they would have had they visited one of these institutions. I also hope that visitors find the exhibition to be a place to simply celebrate the beautiful and sensitively rendered portraits he created throughout his lifetime.

To access Beauford Delaney: A Study in Portraiture, click HERE.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Beauford Delaney’s Self-portrait,1944

By Maija Brennan

Maija Brennan is the Wells International Foundation's 2019 summer intern. A rising senior at Smith College, she majors in French and art history with a concentration in museum studies. Her eight-week internship focuses on researching the life and art of painter Beauford Delaney and creating an online exhibition of a selection of his works.

One of the best-known Beauford Delaney paintings hangs in the American Art Gallery of the Art Institute of Chicago. A vividly stunning exploration of color and paint, Self-portrait, 1944 is one of his earliest self-portraits in circulation. Beauford was living on Greene Street at the time he created this painting, pushing his abilities with abstraction and the marks he was creating with paint and brush.

(1944) Oil on canvas
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
By permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

In this self-portrait, Beauford stares at viewers from a three-quarters turn to his right in front of a muddy orange background. His skin tone and facial features are a beautiful mix of warm and cool tones: the browns and reds in his face are broken up by thick and gestural brushstrokes of green and blue. He wears a vibrant red cap and shirt with a blue garment draped over his shoulders.

Despite his bold use of color, the focal point of this self-portrait is Beauford’s asymmetrically large left eye, with the corresponding brow raised in suspicion. This element of Self-portrait, 1944 recurs in almost every subsequent self-portrait of Beauford: asymmetry in size and placement of the eyes, with one pupils represented asymmetrically regarding size and color. Beauford never spoke with anyone on this artistic decision, yet it has been commented on in previous posts on the Les Amis blog.

(1964) Oil on canvas
Private collection
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
By permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

The eye is seen as a link between our exterior and interior selves, the “window to the soul.” Because of this, artists have used the eyes as symbols of something larger for centuries. Zeus, the King of the Gods in Greek mythology, was considered to be the “all-seeing eye,” a metaphor that connects sight and eyes to religion and God. Large, exaggerated eyes became synonymous with the portraiture in Egyptian art. The eyes in Egyptian images represented the presence of the divine.1

When making connections between Beauford’s depictions of eyes in his self-portraits with possible artistic influences, it is first important to consider where and when he could have been exposed to certain art periods during his lifetime. The asymmetry of the eyes, along with the different coloration in the pupils he depicted, is reminiscent of early Christian art - specifically that of Byzantium.

Byzantine art is often characterized by the static nature in which figures are represented. Byzantine artists departed from classical methods of realistic depictions to focus on religious iconography and symbolism, and eyes became an important feature in conveying divine presence in religious images. The icon of Christ Pantocrator at St. Catherine’s Monastery Sinai is the most well-known example of how eyes were used in religious imagery to illustrate the presence of divinity.

Christ the Savior (Pantokrator)
(6th century) Encaustic on panel
Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai
Public domain

This painting of Christ has been interpreted to represent his dual nature as God and human. Christ’s left side (the viewer’s right) is more three-dimensional in his deep-set eye and hollowed cheekbones, his hand clutching a book of Gospel - the word of God. This side is said to represent the human qualities of Christ. His right side (the viewer’s left) is more flat and static, the eye staring flatly and widely out at viewers with his hand held up in the sign of a blessing. These elements illustrate his divine qualities, his godly traits.

Beginning with the French Symbolists in the 1890s, there was a renewed interest in Byzantine art. The Symbolists’ works leaned towards more decoration and abstraction, relying on religious symbols and iconography used by earlier Byzantine artists.

The Cyclops
Odilon Redon
(circa 1898) Oil on cardboard mounted on panel
65.8cm x 52.7cm
Kröller-Müller Museum Collection, Otterlo
Public Domain

This continued into the twentieth century with the Post-Impressionists. Art critic Roger Fry wrote extensively on Cézanne in particular, comparing the abstract simplicity of his work to the mosaics at Ravenna. He coined the term “Proto-Byzantines” and used it to describe Cézanne and Gauguin, but the name did not stick.2

The first art historian to make a direct link between modernist art and Byzantium was Matthew Stewart Prichard, an American art historian who eventually befriended Henri Matisse and introduced him to Byzantine style. Prichard was deputy director at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston at the turn of the century, eventually moving to Europe in 1906.3 Isabella Stewart Gardner had a collection of Byzantine art that was on display in the museum, and she often received letters from Prichard on his discoveries overseas and his blossoming friendships with modern artists.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was one of Beauford Delaney’s favorites when he lived in Boston during the 1920s. He even exchanged words with Ms. Gardner herself at one point. Because of the close connection the Gardner Museum had formed with Byzantine art and Matthew Prichard, we can conclude that Beauford could have been exposed to this period of art as early as his Boston years, inspired by the simple and abstract forms.

The first exhibition of Byzantine art in Paris did not occur until 1931. Beauford would not move to Paris for another 22 years, but even in New York he was aware of and inspired by French modernists who were experiencing a revival of Byzantine art in their country. Matisse became especially enamored with Byzantine coins, stating in 1914 that the Byzantine expression and his have the same aim with the reductionist and stylized use of line.5 His self-portrait from 1906 is eerily similar in expression and style to Beauford’s.

Self-Portrait in a Striped T-shirt
(1906) Oil on canvas
55cm x 46cm
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen
Public domain in the U.S.
Click HERE to view a full-sized image.

Whether or not Beauford was directly exposed to Byzantine art during his studies and museum visits, he found inspiration in Matisse, who was incorporating Byzantine aesthetics into his artwork when Beauford was only a child.

Beauford was a deeply religious person his entire life. His father was a Methodist preacher, and he entertained friends at parties with the gospel songs he knew by heart throughout his lifetime. Many of his portraits are imbued with religious symbolism, with those closest to him often represented with their hands held up in benediction and halos glowing over their heads. His abstractions from his Paris years were studies in the “religious light” he found upon arriving in France. It is not at all unlikely that he was aware of, and greatly touched by, the early Christian art of Byzantium.

1 Fingesten, Peter. “Sight and Insight: A Contribution Toward An Iconography of the Eye.” Criticism, vol. 1, no. 1, 1959, pp. 20-21. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23091098. Accessed July 26, 2019.

2 Fry, Roger. “Letter to the Editor,” The Burlington Magazine, XII, 1908, pg. 58.

3 Bullen, J. B. “Byzantinism and Modernism 1900-14.” The Burlington Magazine, vol. 141, no. 1160, 1999, pp. 668. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/888554. Accessed July 24, 2019.

4 Byron, Robert. “The Byzantine Exhibition in Paris.” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol. 59, no. 340, 1931, pp. 27. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/864716. Accessed July 25, 2019.

5 Betancourt, Roland, and Maria Taroutina. Byzantium/Modernism: the Byzantine as Method in Modernity, pg 25. Brill, 2015.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Beauford Delaney’s Balzac by Rodin

By Maija Brennan

Maija Brennan is the Wells International Foundation's 2019 summer intern. A rising senior at Smith College, she majors in French and art history with a concentration in museum studies. Her eight-week internship focuses on researching the life and art of painter Beauford Delaney and creating an online exhibition of a selection of his works.

An interesting study in form and color, Balzac by Rodin is an oil painting Beauford completed circa 1968, which depicts a statue that Rodin made in memory of the French novelist, Honoré Balzac.

This painting is a beautiful exploration of color blocking and composition. In the foreground, Rodin’s sculpture of Balzac is in the center left. It is defined by thick lines of green and fushia pink, with occasional blobs of yellow dotting Balzac’s torso. Beauford’s view is lower than the sculpture; viewers are looking up at Balzac’s upturned face. Hills of solid green and orange ramble throughout the background of the painting underneath a pink-white sky with an amorphous blue form dotting the surface. Two trees flank Rodin’s sculpture, one of which bends slightly, giving the impression that this was painted on a windy day.

The subject of the painting is a curious choice. The history of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture is intriguing, not just in and of itself, but also for Rodin’s methods in creating a portrait. It is possible Beauford admired the work of art not just for its aesthetic attributes, but also for how it related to his own ideas of portraiture.

Balzac by Rodin
(ca. 1968) Oil on canvas
24 x 19 1/2 in (61x50 cm)
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
(Fair use claim)

Monument to Balzac is a sculpture Auguste Rodin created between 1892 and 1897 in memory of Balzac. The work of art was commissioned by the Société des Gens de Lettres in 1891, and Rodin was given 18 months to finish the project. Instead, he took seven years. The sculptor became enamored with the novelist and devoured all of his literature. He also extensively researched Balzac’s personality, an approach taken by the writer himself when developing characters for his novels. Rodin traveled to Balzac’s hometown and completed dozens of portrait studies to achieve the writer’s likeness.

Monument to Balzac, 1898
Musée Rodin, Paris
Photo by Beyond My Ken
Creative Commons License

However, by the end of the project in 1898, Rodin explained that likeness to his subject was not his ultimate goal. Through his readings, voyages and studies, Rodin set out to capture the inner essence, the persona, of Honoré Balzac, rather than physical likeness.

In a letter composed at the completion of the sculpture, Rodin said:

“The only thing I realize today is that the neck is too strong. Through the exaggerated neck I wanted to represent strength. I realize that the execution exceeded the idea.”

When the sculpture was presented at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, critics found it to be too grotesque and garish. Despite the backlash, Rodin’s contemporaries - Paul Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec and Claude Monet - supported the artist and what he had set out to do.

Monument to Balzac is a symbol in art history for Rodin’s approach to portraiture. Creating a sculpture in Balzac’s image became less about capturing his features to a painstakingly accurate degree, and more about encapsulating the subject’s essence.

It is possible that Beauford painted Rodin’s sculpture because he saw it as an important icon in the Parisian landscape. More likely than not though, he appreciated and admired Rodin’s method of creating Balzac’s portrait. While Beauford never took seven years to extensively research the subjects of his own paintings, he had a strong point of view about how he wanted to portray those sitting for him. He cared less about depicting facial characteristics accurately, and more about making visible the subjects’ inner personalities and characters.

Beauford’s portraits were testaments of love to those he painted and drew - his friends, family, and public figures he admired. Auguste Rodin’s sculpture was in much the same way a declaration of admiration and appreciation for Honoré Balzac as an artist and person. In painting Balzac by Rodin, perhaps Beauford was expressing a kinship felt for his artistic predecessor and simultaneously paying homage to both Rodin and Balzac.