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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beauford at Galerie Darthea Speyer

Darthea Speyer is an extraordinary woman whose passion and vision changed the landscape of Paris’ art scene. She worked as exhibit officer for the United States Information Services at the American Embassy and helped to found the American Cultural Center in the rue de Dragon. Subsequently, during the midst of the May 1968 riots, she established an art gallery in the heart of Saint-Germain des Prés. Her brother, A. James Speyer, designed the space, and brother and sister worked together to plan the expositions.

Galerie Darthea Speyer
© Discover Paris!

Beauford and Darthea Speyer met in the fall of 1956, when Speyer purchased a watercolor that Beauford painted during his summer in Ibiza that year. She would later organize a group exhibition that included Beauford’s works at the American Cultural Center in 1966, and host two solo exhibitions of his work at her gallery. She was a staunch supporter of Beauford during good times and bad, and often commissioned him to paint portraits of herself and her family to provide him with work. She was a member of the trustee panel that handled Beauford’s affairs during his last years, which were spent at Saint Anne’s Hospital.

Beauford Delaney
Oil on canvas (1965)
Courtesy of Galerie Darthea Speyer

The 1973 solo exposition at the Speyer Gallery was quite successful and received positive reviews. Beauford’s portraits commanded the most attention. Among them were works depicting Jean Genet, Ahmed Bioud, and James Baldwin. Speyer also selected several abstract and semi-abstract paintings to exhibit, including many that featured African themes. The exposition ran from February 6 through March 2.

Invitation card for 1973 exhibit at Galerie Darthea Speyer
Courtesy of Galerie Darthea Speyer

Not much is written about the 1992 solo exposition at the Speyer Gallery. However, in the invitation card for the exhibit, Speyer tenderly eulogizes Beauford. She speaks of his coming almost each day to her office at the American Cultural Center, and then to the gallery. She states how he happily and quickly captured the images of her family and friends on canvas. She laments the shadow that descended upon his spirit and eventually led to his commitment at Saint Anne’s.

Invitation card for 1992 exhibit at Galerie Darthea Speyer
Courtesy of Galerie Darthea Speyer

Galerie Darthea Speyer permanently closed its doors at the end of 2009. It will donate its remaining works by Beauford to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

Beauford and Darthea
Invitation card for 1973 exhibit at Galerie Darthea Speyer
Courtesy of Galerie Darthea Speyer

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