Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is partnering with the Wells International Foundation (WIF) to take the Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition to the U.S.!

We value your support!

TO MAKE A DONATION, CLICK HERE.
(All or part of your gift through WIF may qualify as a charitable deductible in the U.S.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Beauford: Black Man and Painter

When Beauford’s friends and I were deciding upon the inscription for his tombstone, a suggestion was made to refer to him as an African-American painter. This idea was quickly rejected, however, when one of our group reminded us that Beauford did not wish to be remembered as black painter (or even as an American painter) because it placed him in a subcategory.

The following excerpt from a letter written by painter Charley Boggs, one of Beauford’s closest friends, corroborates this:
"I have just talked with Madame du Closel on the phone. Here are some considerations which she and I feel are important: B(eauford) has spoken to us both about the idea of "representing his race" as a painter. B wants to be known as a painter, not as a Negro painter. I realize that this is a touchy subject but I hope you will understand. Beauford is, of course, race-conscious. How can he help it? But he is not, nor has ever been a spokesman for his race. He may protest privately but has no desire to protest publicly. There is a difference. In any event, as painter, he prefers to remain anonymous when it comes to his color."
The letter is dated Monday, November 5, 1962. Sylvain Briet (brother of Philippe Briet of the now defunct Philippe Briet Gallery in New York) found it among the Beauford Delaney papers of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and graciously shared this excerpt with me. It is written to Lynn Stone regarding a proposal for a Beauford Delaney exhibition in New York in the fall of 1963. Madame du Closel was a close personal friend of Beauford who helped him a great deal during his bouts with mental illness.

Boggs says that “Beauford is, of course, race-conscious.” We can see this in Beauford’s art. He not only depicted blacks in his figurative work and his portraiture, but also drew upon the rich culture of African statuary to create numerous vibrant paintings. Yet he did not limit himself to portraying black people or Afro-centric themes in his work because his art was a reflection of his life. Beauford’s œuvre speaks for itself.


Beauford Delaney

Untitled
Oil on masonite (c. 1945)
Collection Brattle Associates
Art for invitation card for the 1994 Philippe Briet retrospective entitled
Beauford Delaney: The New York Years
Courtesy of Sylvain Briet

It is natural, even pathological, for us Americans to classify ourselves first and foremost according to our race. Though I believe that we would be better off rejecting this unfortunate, deeply ingrained tradition, I also believe that it is virtually impossible. Yet I understand and empathize with Beauford’s viewpoint, and intend to honor it. Therefore, though I may refer to Beauford the man as an African American or as a black man, I will never refer to him as a black painter or an African-American painter in this blog. I will also never personally refer to his work as African-American art.

The inscription on his tombstone will simply refer to him as “Peintre / Painter.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Presenting Beauford

I am pleased to announce that I will speak at two events in Paris during Black History Month in honor of Beauford and in support of the gravesite project.

The name of my presentation is “Beauford Delaney: From Paris to Beyond.” In it, I will give a brief overview of Beauford’s life, explain how I became involved in the story of his gravesite, and then present images and commentary on his life in Paris. I will discuss the evolution of Beauford’s artistic style, present information on his solo expositions in Paris and retrospectives mounted on his work after his death, and finally, speak about his final resting place and the fundraising effort that we have launched to place a permanent marker at his grave.



On Saturday 27 February 2010, I will speak at an event called “African-American Expatriates – Yesterday and Today” that is organized by the American Embassy. The address is:

New York University in France
56, rue de Passy
Paris 75016
Metro : La Muette or Passy RER : Boulainvilliers

The presentation will begin at 2:00 p.m. It will last approximately one hour, with up to a half-hour designated for questions and answers afterward. Following my presentation, there will be a talk on the 1921 race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma at 4:00 p.m., and a poetry reading at 6:00 p.m.  Wine and cheese will be served at around 7 p.m. Admission is free.

On Sunday 28 February 2010, I will speak at Patricia Laplante-Collins’ Paris Soirées. The informal evening will begin with snacks and wine, followed by a round-robin introduction of attendees. I will give the presentation, followed by questions and answers. A buffet dinner will then be served. If you wish to attend, please send e-mail to Patricia to reserve. Her soirées are always informative and entertaining! Time: 7:00 p.m. Entry fee: 20 euros.


Monique (left) and Patricia (right)

I hope that those of you who live in Paris or who will be passing through on the last weekend of February will join me for one of these events!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Beauford's Eternal Home - Thiais Cemetery

The Parisian Cemetery of Thiais is located in the town of Thiais, which is 10.3 km (6.4 miles) south of Paris. It is the second largest cemetery in the Paris area, and is the most recently opened (1929). Easily reached by public transportation (metro, RER, bus), it has been Beauford’s resting place since 1979.


Avenue de l'Ouest
Thiais Cemetery
© Discover Paris!

The cemetery extends over 103.36 hectares (225.4 acres) and contains 130 divisions. Its entrance, created by architect Charles Halley, is described on the Paris.fr Web site as majestic. However, I find it to be heavy, rigid, and uninviting. Among the more well-known people buried there are the Austrian writer Joseph Roth, prince Serge Orloff (descendant of Catherine the Great of Russia), and Léon Sedov, son of Léon Trotsky.


Entry to Thiais Cemetery
© Discover Paris!

Thiais has a reputation for being a burial ground for the poor. There is an area called the Garden of Fraternity where persons who have few to no resources are buried. These “common terrains” contain individual, prefabricated graves in which persons may be buried for a single, non-renewable period of five years. Though generally used for poor or unidentified persons, anyone may be buried in this section of the cemetery – regardless of financial means – upon request. Thiais’ common terrains are located in Divisions 48-50 and 56-58.

Despite its reputation as a “poor man’s cemetery,” several divisions at Thiais contain elaborate graves.

Beauford’s grave is located in Division 86. Overgrown with weeds when I visited it in July 2009, it was being mown when I returned in September to pay the outstanding fees for Beauford’s concession. Beauford has a “temporary” concession, which is renewable every ten years.


Signpost for Division 86
© Discover Paris!

For a detailed article on the cemetery (in French), visit http://www.landrucimetieres.fr/spip/spip.php?article1858. Even if you cannot read French, go to the site to see numerous photos that will give you a good idea of how vast the cemetery is, and show the diverse faiths (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist) of the persons buried there. These photos also provide an excellent indication of what French grave sites look like.

Reminder:

Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is seeking to raise $8500 to cover the cost of the construction and installation of Beauford's tombstone, one year of maintenance of the gravesite, concession fees for the ten year period beginning in 2011, and miscellaneous expenses such as banking fees and postage. Our goal is to have raised this entire amount by 26 March 2010, the 31st anniversary of Beauford’s death.

Your contribution of $100 or 100€ to our fund will help us to place a fitting monument at Beauford’s grave. Please send your donation today.

To make a secure contribution online now, click on the "Donate" button in the right margin beneath the photo of Beauford's grave.

Checks (in US dollars) should be made payable to Les Amis de Beauford Delaney and sent to the following address today:

Monique Y. Wells
Les Amis de Beauford Delaney
11503 Sandhurst
Houston, TX 77048
U.S.A.

As president of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, I would like to personally express my gratitude for your generosity and your support of this important cause! We will inform all contributors of our success once we have reached our goal.

With sincere thanks,
Monique Y. Wells
President, Les Amis de Beauford Delaney

P.S. If you are unable to contribute $100 or 100€, but would still like to support us, please consider donating $50, 50€, $25, or 25€ to our cause. If you would like to contribute more than $100 or 100€, please feel free to do so!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Beauford's Tombstone: Call for Donations

We have chosen a simple, yet elegant monument to place at Beauford’s gravesite. It consists of a Tarn granite slab that will cover the full length of the tomb. There will be no additional headstone for the monument because of economic concerns. (A full-length slab with a headstone is the norm in France, whereas in the U.S., we generally only erect a headstone.) A photograph of Beauford will be permanently fixed to the surface of the slab, and beneath it, an inscription in black letters will be carved into the stone.

The gravestone will rest on a rectangular, cement base, which will in turn rest upon a reinforcing structure that will be placed underground to prevent the tomb from collapsing.

Model of the tombstone for Beauford's grave

Beauford was a man of simple tastes, and we believe that the pure lines of this monument would have pleased him.

Our association is seeking to raise $8500 to cover the cost of the construction and installation of the tombstone, one year of maintenance of the gravesite, concession fees for the ten year period beginning in 2011, and miscellaneous expenses such as banking fees and postage. Our goal is to have raised this entire amount by 26 March 2010, the 31st anniversary of Beauford’s death.

Your contribution of $100 or 100€ to our fund will help us to place a fitting monument at Beauford’s grave. Please send your donation today.

To make a secure contribution online now, click on the "Donate" button in the right margin beneath the photo of Beauford's grave.

Checks (in US dollars) should be made payable to Les Amis de Beauford Delaney and sent to the following address today:

Monique Y. Wells
Les Amis de Beauford Delaney
11503 Sandhurst
Houston, TX 77048
U.S.A.

As president of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, I would like to personally express my gratitude for your generosity and your support of this important cause! We will inform all contributors of our success once we have reached our goal.

With sincere thanks,
Monique Y. Wells
President, Les Amis de Beauford Delaney

P.S. If you are unable to contribute $100 or 100€, but would still like to support us, please consider donating $50, 50€, $25, or 25€ to our cause. If you would like to contribute more than $100 or 100€, please feel free to do so!