I did not know Beauford Delaney personally. But in reading about him and talking with people who knew him – in particular, Richard Gibson and Ed Clark – I have been repeatedly impressed by the glowing statements and vivid exclamations made about him. In Leeming’s biography, Beauford is described by friends as a “big Buddha” and “a veritable angel of a man.” James Baldwin described him as a “cross between Brer Rabbit and Saint Francis of Assisi,” and a “spiritual father.” In honor of the 108th anniversary of Beauford’s birth, and as a tribute to his warm and gentle spirit, here are several quotes written by people who knew and loved him. Happy Birthday, Beauford!
As for Beauford Delaney, it escapes the general notice that he has comprehended, more totally perhaps than anyone…the tremendous reality of the light which comes out of darkness. If we stand before a Delaney canvas, we are standing, my friends, in the light: and, if in this light, which is both loving and merciless, we are able to confront ourselves, we are liberated into the perception that darkness is not the absence of light, but the negation of it.
– James Baldwin
I think of Beauford Delaney first as a wonderful, amazing and unique human being, a near saint or better than saint, an individual who has known nothing but adversity, met it squarely, and rendered it null, not through success but by sheer pluck and indomitable fortitude…He has lived his whole life with but one thought in mind – to paint…Poor though he has been, he has never given the impression of being miserable. He has always given more than he received – that is to say, himself.– Henry Miller
Perhaps the most outstanding characteristic of Beauford Delaney as a man is his generosity of spirit. It is practically impossible for someone to do something so mean that Beauford is not ready to forgive it and understand.
– James Jones
For many years, the sparkle of his gaze shone around him and attracted a crowd of friends, fascinated by this strong, if silent, presence. It was not his discourse that captivated, but a light that emanated from him and permeated everyone. (Translated from French)
– Darthea Speyer
In honor of the centennial of Beauford’s birth in 2001, the Palmer Museum of Art organized an exposition of selected works by Beauford and his dear friend Larry Calcagno. It was shown at five institutions around the U.S. from February 2001 to November 2002.
He is about the only person in my life, who gave me generously of deep insights into life – without demanding tribute. A true artist – beyond this world!Two of Beauford’s friends sent tributes specifically for this blog posting. Here is an excerpt from what Richard Gibson has to say (his full tribute will be published in a subsequent posting):
– Larry Calcagno
Beauford Delaney was a master and friend who taught me how to see, hear and understand a lot that I learned about the arts, from jazz to Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson and the spirituals to the European and American classics, from the glories of African sculpture to Mondrian…Finally, Richard Long has contributed the last lines of his poem “Ascending, for Beauford” (1975):
All gathers, comes to growth, fuses.
The yellow, the green. The white paper
catching, refracting the sunlight.
The palette fills with light and love.
The spirit lifts, rises.
The world floats, ascends.