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.
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:
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.