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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Richard A. Long and Beauford Delaney

Richard A. Long is Atticus Haygood Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Emeritus, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a personal friend of Beauford, and contributed to the birthday tribute that was posted on this blog on 30 December 2009. Here, in his words, is the story of his relationship with Beauford:

I first became acquainted with the name and work of Beauford around 1947. He had been the featured artist in the annual Pyramid Club Show, an event organized by the artists Dox Thrash and Humbert Howard. I did not attend the show, but of the few paintings sold, two were bought by Philadelphian Dorothy Warrick. I saw them and heard about Beauford upon visiting the Warrick family home in Germantown that Dorothy shared with her sister Marie. The Warrick sisters were the nieces of the sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller, whom I later met at their home. Their collection included work by a number of Philadelphia artists—Allan Freelon, John Abele, Henry Jones, and particularly, Laura Wheeler Waring. The almost brutal expressionism of the Delaney paintings posed quite a contrast to the calm visual language of the Philadelphians and was the subject of much discussion. There were those who thought that Dorothy had gone too far, inflicting on the sober décor of Warrick antiques and porcelain a New York state of mind. Dorothy, who had always been an independent spirit, had felt vindicated by a visit from Alain Locke who approved her selection. Subsequent to her purchase, Dorothy had visited Beauford’s studio in Greenwich Village, a trip that she described to me on several occasions.

I heard about Beauford over the years and saw several of his paintings, but I did not meet him until I began a year’s residence in Paris in 1957. I had encountered the composer Howard Swanson, who told me that Beauford was living in the Paris suburb of Clamart and offered to take me there for a visit. On a typically dreamy Sunday afternoon we went to see Beauford for a visit that stretched into several hours. This enabled me to view the transformation that Beauford’s paintings had undergone since his arrival in Paris some years before.

During the subsequent year I saw Beauford often, usually in St. Germain-des-Pres. I spent another year in France beginning in the fall of 1964, during which I saw Beauford frequently at his studio in Rue Vercingétorix. I sat for portraits--one in pastel and one in oil-- off and on in 1964 and 1965 during my visits to Paris from Poitiers, where I was working on my dissertation. It was in 1965 that Beauford did the oil portrait of me, which is now on view at the High Museum.

Portrait of Richard A. Long
Oil on canvas (1965)
High Museum of Art

Beginning in 1966, I spent most of my summers in Paris for several years. Most of my visits to Beauford were at his studio, though from time to time we sat in various cafes, including the Flore. On one or two occasions we visited museums together, notably the fairly new Monet installation at the Marmottan. We often discussed many aspects of American life and culture, as well as my idea for the organization of a major exhibition of his work.

Cafe de Flore
© Discover Paris!

This was realized in a large exhibition that I curated for the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1978, which was unfortunately too late for Beauford to have an awareness of what was happening.

I made a gift of the Beauford portrait to the High Museum in 2001. The director decided to organize a Beauford Delaney show featuring the painting, and he called upon a former student of mine, Richard J. Powell of Duke University, to curate it. Hence, “Beauford Delaney: The Color Yellow” came into being. The catalog included a poem I had dedicated to Beauford and which was the title poem of my volume, Ascending and Other Poems.

The Color Yellow - Catalog Cover
© Roberta Boyea "Basement Book Store"

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