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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.

3 comments:

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

This is a really beautiful post about friendship and support. I loved knowing this intimate information about these two artists, and I appreciate the way you wrote about them here, Monique. Thank you.

About Beauford Delaney said...

Thank you, Karin, for this lovely vote of support!

Marc said...

Lucien Happersberger died in Switzerland in August 2010