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!



Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, Beauford!

Portrait of Beauford Delaney
© 1953 Carl Van Vechten

Beauford was born 109 years ago today!

I am both pleased and a little saddened as I write this posting, because I am honoring Beauford’s beginning as well as announcing an ending of sorts. I am celebrating Beauford today by presenting several of my favorite images of him and his work. But I am also placing the blog on hiatus as of today, and will no longer be bringing you information about this wonderful artist on a regular basis.

You may remember that I broached the subject of retiring the blog last month, in the posting about Les Amis’s first anniversary. In that posting, I said:

I have done my best to find information on Beauford from as many reliable sources as possible, and to present that information with clarity, integrity, and love. But I am running out of sources, and will not diminish the quality of this Web publication just for the sake of continuing on. My goal is to publish through the end of this year, targeting Beauford’s birthday (December 30) as the date of the final posting.

Be assured that I will post noteworthy information as I discover it. And I am certainly willing to publish personal anecdotes about Beauford and other information from credible sources. However, I can no longer actively and efficiently pursue the discovery process.

I will post on milestone dates such as the anniversary of Beauford’s death. I will also begin publishing regularly again if Les Amis decides to pursue one of the projects that I mentioned in the November posting (example: creating a scholarship fund in Beauford’s name). There is some activity underway to create a short film about Beauford, and I hope to have good news about the progression of this project within the next few months. So do check back periodically! Follow the blog or pull its content through RSS so that you do not miss anything.

I encourage you all to purchase a copy of Beauford’s biography – Amazing Grace. It is the only book that chronicles Beauford’s life. It is a quick read that captures Beauford’s spirit admirably. Note that Les Amis earns a few cents on each book purchased through the links found in this and other postings, as well as through the link in the sidebar.

Before going on to the images, I would like to thank all the people who contributed to the blog once again – you know who you are – and to say that we will remain in touch through e-mail and Facebook.

Happy Birthday, Beauford! Long live your art and your memory!

A young Beauford Delaney
Photo: African-American Registry

 Still Life with Pears
(1946) Oil on canvas
Private collection

Composition 16
(1954-56) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney; Private Collection
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York , NY

Beauford on the deck of the SS Liberté
Photo from David Leeming’s Amazing Grace

Detail of Self-Portrait
(1944) Oil on canvas
Art Institute of Chicago
Photo courtesy of Tim Paulson

Portrait of Beauford Delaney
(ca. 1950)
Possibly by Gjon Mili

(1962) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney; Private Collection
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York , NY

Greenwich Village
(1945) Oil on canvas
Private collection

Beauford's Paint Box
© Discover Paris!

(1964-65) Oil on canvas
Bill Hodges Gallery, New York

Nativity Scene
(1961) Oil on canvas
Private collection

Portrait of Beauford Delaney
Georgia O'Keeffe
(1943) Pastel on paper
Curtis Galleries, Minneapolis, MN

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Beauford Delaney Letters

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
© 2007 – Dmadeo

The Schomburg Center in Manhattan holds an archive of twenty-four pieces of correspondence that pertain to Beauford. They date from 1958-1963. Eighteen of these are personal letters written by Beauford to Lynn Stone, a friend and supporter from his “New York Years.” Biographer David Leeming refers to Stone several times in Amazing Grace, citing that she visited Beauford in Paris during the summers of 1956 and 1962, and that she was the instigator of the idea that the Urban League sponsor an exposition of Beauford’s works. (This idea would never come to fruition.) He indicates that she gave Beauford a blanket and warm clothes to help him survive the cold winter of 1963 at his rue Vercingétorix studio, and that Beauford wrote to her about his love of reading “wisdom literature of the Far East.”

The Schomburg has many additional letters concerning the Urban League exposition. One was written by James Baldwin in his capacity as chairman of the committee charged with raising money for the show. Two were written by Edward C. Califano, the director of Galerie Internationale – an organization that was to be a partner in the exposition. Two others represent correspondence between Lynn Stone and Beauford’s dear friend Charlie Boggs.

The Schomburg archive presents a rare opportunity to view Beauford’s personal papers and to read firsthand his reflections about himself and others as well as his life philosophy. The library Web site lists call number Sc MG 217 as the reference for the archive.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
New York, NY 10037-1801
Telephone: 212-491-2200
Closed Mondays

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Colin Gravois Remembers Beauford

Colin Gravois has lived in Paris / Ile de France since 1968. He met Beauford when Beauford lived on rue Vercingétorix, and has very fond memories of him. Colin spoke at the gravesite ceremony that Les Amis held at Thiais Cemetery on October 14th. He recently recounted his memories of Beauford in an interview at his office in Antony (a suburb located south of Paris).

Colin Gravois at Beauford’s Graveside Commemoration Ceremony
© Franz Fox Kennedy

Upon arriving in Paris, Colin lived for five years at the Hôtel de Blois at 50, rue Vavin, which was located very near the café Select on boulevard du Montparnasse. (The hotel was a functioning brothel when Colin lived there, with the first three floors being used for "business" and the three upper floors being reserved for long-term residents.) He recalls that the rent was only 10 francs a day – roughly $2 in those times – and that the one franc per day increase that the hotel proprietor charged in 1974 was considered a big deal!

Colin would often have breakfast at the Dôme, which was only a stone’s throw from his hotel. (The café still stands on the corner of boulevard du Montparnasse and rue Delambre.) The Dôme is where he met Beauford in 1968 or 1969. Beauford would come in at around 9 AM every day – alone – to have breakfast, and Colin became accustomed to seeing him there. He remembers being impressed by Beauford’s “beatific smile.” Colin said that Beauford seemed wary that people might try to take advantage of him, so at first he did not attempt to engage Beauford in conversation about personal things.

At that time, the Dôme had a sidewalk terrace (it is enclosed today). Colin recalls that Beauford always wanted to sit on the terrace in the front row, facing the street. In this way, he could watch people as they passed by. Beauford knew lots of people, so he was often quite busy greeting friends and acquaintances when he was at the Dôme.

Terrace of the Dôme Café, 1959
Photo from Cafés d’Artistes à Paris (photo credit-Archives)

Le Dôme, today
© Discover Paris!

Eventually, Colin offered to take Beauford back to his studio on rue Vercingétorix in the large black sedan (of the type used for London cabs) that he drove around town. He did this a few times before Beauford invited him up to the studio. Colin recalls that the entrance was au fond de la cour (at the back of the courtyard), and that it was up a flight of stairs. His most vivid memory of the studio is that everything was covered with white sheets.

Colin remembers that Beauford would occasionally take meals at the Coupole, and that he also liked to eat at a restaurant called Les Mille Colonnes on rue de la Gaité. This was not very far from his studio, and it also happened to be a place where Colin and his friends invariably had dinner. Beauford would always join them if he was there. At Les Mille Colonnes, starters and desserts cost only 90 centimes, and main courses cost 3.50 francs.  Though these prices were “Beauford's style” (affordable), Colin and his friends would chip in most of the time to take care of Beauford’s bill.

By the early 1970s, Colin began to note early signs of Beauford’s mental deterioration, mostly in the form of forgetfulness. Around 1973, he gave Beauford four large canvases that he has previously used for a promotional event. Beauford was grateful to receive them, and this strengthened the bond between him and Colin.

Colin’s favorite memory of Beauford is of taking him for rides in his big black cab. He named the car “Bill” because the license plate began with the letters “BLL.” Because the space next to the driver was reserved for luggage, Beauford always sat in the back, as a taxi passenger would do. He had an excellent vantage point for viewing the city because the seat was high, and Colin remembers that Beauford would look out the window at the buildings, cars, and pedestrians with a big smile on his face.

A London Taxicab
Photo: Wikipedia

Colin was unequivocal when he said that the most important aspects that he remembers of Beauford’s persona were his kindness and gentleness – the same attributes that numerous others have cited in this blog and elsewhere.

Beauford painted a portrait of Colin at the Vercingétorix studio in 1975. Colin sat for Beauford several times as the painting took shape. He remembers being seated in an armchair wearing a green army jacket for the sittings. When it was almost done, Colin had his friend Kathleen photograph him with the painting, with Colin posing in the chair where he sat for the painting and the painting perched behind and above him. Kathleen also took several photographs of Beauford’s studio at that time. Colin said that Beauford’s signature appeared on the painting as though it had been done in pencil.

Colin then went on a trip to the U.S., thinking that he would retrieve the painting upon his return. But by the time he came back to Paris, Beauford had been taken to Saint Anne’s Hospital and his studio had been vacated. Colin never saw the portrait again. He is hoping that his friend Kathleen will be able to find the photos that she took so that he will have some visual record of himself with the painting, as well as the studio.

Upon Beauford’s commitment to Saint Anne’s, James Baldwin most likely moved the painting to an apartment on rue des Anglais in the 5th arrondissement where he stored Beauford’s works and other belongings on a temporary basis. Several of these would later be shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem retrospective organized by Richard A. Long.

In looking at the catalog of that exhibition, I came across an image of a painting called Portrait of a Man in Green. Intrigued by the parallels that I noted in Colin’s description of Beauford’s painting of him and what I saw in the image, I contacted Colin to see if he could identify the portrait.

Portrait of a Man in Green
Beauford Delaney
Oil (undated)
Photo from catalog of Beauford Delaney: A Retrospective
Studio Museum in Harlem

Both he and his daughter immediately identified Colin as the person represented there! In addition to the physical likeness (curly hair, moustache and goatee) and the armchair and green jacket, Colin said that he always wore his wristwatch on the right arm. The man in Beauford’s portrait also has a wristwatch on the right wrist.

What a fortuitous outcome to my interview!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beauford Describes Beauford: Beauford's Tribute to Henry Miller

Here is yet another contribution to the Les Amis blog by Beauford's dear friend Burt Reinfrank.  Though I have thanked Burt privately for these guest postings, I want to do so publicly today.  Burt has been one of my staunchest supports regarding the blog, and everything else concerning Beauford and the gravesite project.  Thank you, Burt!

Though the title of the painting shown below is Self Portrait,  Burt indicated that he believes it is a composite of Beauford and Henry Miller.  What do you think?

Burt writes:

After a day out together with Beauford we passed by Beauford’s studio. Beauford said to my first wife Sara, “You type well. I’ve written a homage to Henry Miller but my handwriting is so bad I would really like to send it typed if you could do that for me.” Sara took the handwritten copy and several days later I returned the typed version to Beauford. When I read what Beauford had written to describe how he saw Henry Miller, I thought, “He is describing himself.” I have never met Miller and for Beauford it may be Miller. But for me it is Beauford.

Beauford Delaney (1901-1979)
Self Portrait, 1962
oil on canvas
25 1/2" x 21 1/4" x 3/4", signed 
© Estate of Beauford Delaney; Private Collection
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC,  New York , NY

Beauford wrote:


Henry Miller is a transcentdental [sic] spirit whose vision illumens [sic] the cosmic heritage of mankind. His constant growth of enlightenment includes the unity and obligations of the human family, to honor one and all with patience and understanding of the universal oneness of our varied heritage. His understanding of this unique necessity and truth flows through all of his writing, his painting, and includes varieties of joy, and some patience with the painful human condition in its search for clarity, offering himself to problems, vision and minute observation, arousing intention by awareness and urgency, through methods of philosophical techniques, and finding time to persuade all of us to look back as well as forward into our historical past, and by so doing, augment the present with our findings of the differences and sameness of each epoch, including art, science and philosophy, giving light to the eternal heritage of all mankind, with joy and selflessness, devotion and infinite patience.

What sometimes seems impossible, his faith augments by years of discovery of himself, and with joy accomplishes the almost impossible task of uniting into his art the entire substance of this experience. This source in a work of art has magnetism and engages all mankind, because, like the “sun”, it is eternal and benevolent. Miller reveals to all people that life is a miracle to be lived and exploited to release its fullness.

Beauford Delaney

In conjunction with this posting, I am pleased to announce that Dorothy's Gallery has mounted an exposition called Henry Miller aux jeunes artists d'aujourd'hui that features twenty original works and lithographs by Miller.  On Saturday, December 11, at 7:30 PM, the gallery will host an evening performance in homage of Miller's writing and painting entitled Tropique d'Os.

I believe that Beauford would be very pleased!

Dorothy's Gallery
27, rue Keller
75011 Paris
Telephone: 01 43 57 08 51
Internet: http://www.dorothysgallery.com
Email : dorothysgallery@gmail.com
Métro : Bastille, Voltaire
Parking : Ledru Rollin et Opéra Bastille
Open Wednesday through Saturday from 1 PM to 7 PM
Tuesday and Sunday from 4 PM to 7 PM

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brief Musings on Beauford and James Baldwin

Baldwin, Beauford, and Lucien Happersberger in Paris, 1953
Photo from James Baldwin by David Leeming
James Baldwin died twenty-three years ago today. He was among the best friends that Beauford had.

Baldwin owed a great deal to his friendship with Beauford. In The Price of the Ticket, he states that his career began when his life in Greenwich Village began, and that this life began when he met Beauford. He describes how he walked into color and into music when he walked into Beauford’s studio at 181 Greene Street. In his inimitable style, he pays tribute to the man whose unshakable example of “courage and integrity, humility and passion” gave him the strength to survive and the ability to hope for a future.

Much later, Baldwin would become Beauford’s source of strength during his “Paris Years.” It was Baldwin’s turn to introduce Beauford to people around town in the early days, and to provide council and comfort when Beauford more frequently became depressed or distraught.

Beauford and James Baldwin at the American Cultural Center
(1970s) United States Information Service

He would do this (or at least attempt to do this) in the face of his own emotional crises. Baldwin would “send for” Beauford when his friend suffered psychological episodes or physical illness, having Beauford join him in Saint-Paul de Vence. But at the very end, Baldwin did not come to Beauford’s funeral due to illness and other problems. He deeply regretted this, and spoke of his feelings in an interview with his secretary and biographer, David Leeming.

Beauford would paint Baldwin many times. Here are a few examples:

Dark Rapture, as it appears in Amazing Grace
Portrait (oil on board) dates from 1941

Portrait of James Baldwin
Beauford Delaney
(1945) Oil on canvas
Philadelphia Museum of Art

James Baldwin
Beauford Delaney
(1963) Pastel on Paper
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute

As do all of Beauford’s portraits, these paintings of James Baldwin depict much more than his physical likeness. They express Baldwin’s “life essence” as Beauford saw it at various stages of Baldwin’s life – his accomplishments, his insecurities, his hopes and dreams. They also represent the deepest, most profound expressions of Beauford’s love for Baldwin.