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!



Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fix Me Jesus: Beauford's Solace in December 1953

Happy Birthday, Beauford!
December 30, 1901


In December 1953, Beauford and the rest of the citizens of Paris were experiencing one of the coldest winters on record. According to David Leeming's biography entitled Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, Beauford tried to keep warm in his freezing room at the Hôtel des Ecoles by wrapping himself in a blanket. He wrote notes to himself to keep his inner voices of "paranoia and depression" at bay, and often copied the lyrics of blues songs and spirituals into his journal. One that he particularly favored was "Fix Me Jesus."

The video below shows two dancers from the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in a moving interpretation of this song from the show Revelations. I think that Beauford would have loved the colors and the lighting of the set, as well as the voices that render this performance so powerful.

Happy New Year
from Les Amis de Beauford Delaney!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Where to Find Beauford's Art: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Merry Christmas
from Les Amis de Beauford Delaney!


The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan holds a single work by Beauford – a portrait of Stanislas Rodanski:

Stanislas Rodanski
Beauford Delaney (1901-1979)
(c) Droits réservés
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
George A. Hearn Fund, 1992

The painting is not currently on display.

The Met loaned this painting to the High Museum of Art for a solo exposition of Beauford’s work entitled The Color Yellow. The description in the catalog indicates that it is a “lively mix of complementary colors (yellow-green against red against ochre and orange paired with a hot yellow) and areas of frenetically painted dashes and daubs.”

Whether Beauford ever met Rodanski is questionable because the surrealist poet was confined to a mental institution in Lyon in 1953 – the same year that Beauford arrived in Paris. Beauford painted Rodanski’s portrait in 1963, which means that he may have relied on a photograph or other likeness of the poet, or perhaps even his memory, to create this work. The Color Yellow catalog notes that “of greater significance than the portrait’s biographical accuracy is its visual luminosity and Delaney’s successful representation of individual perception and sagacity.”

The Color Yellow exposition was shown at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia from February 9 through May 4, 2002; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York from July 10 through-September 15, 2002; the Anacostia Museum in Washington, D.C. from October 11 through December 30, 2002; and the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts from February 8 through May 4, 2003.

The Rodanski portrait also figured among the works displayed in the exposition called Explorations in the City of Light: African-American Artists in Paris, 1945-1965. The catalog for this show describes the portrait as follows:

In a manner similar to that applied to the subject’s colorful jacket, Mr. Rodansky’s forehead and hands have been built up with thick paint in just as many colors, and the background resembles one of the artist’s contemporaneous abstractions.

Explorations in the City of Light: African-American Artists in Paris, 1945-1965 was shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York from January 18 through June 2, 1996, the Illinois: Chicago Cultural Center in Chicago, Illinois from June 29 through August 29, 1996, and the New Orleans Museum of Art in New Orleans, Louisiana from September 14 through November 10, 1996.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Why Are So Many of Beauford's Paintings in Museum Storage?

In my search for Beauford’s art in museums around the world, I have discovered that most of his work is not being displayed. Rather, it is in storage. (At the Whitney Museum of American Art, all of the Delaneys are in storage.) The more I searched, the more I began to wonder why. For those museums that present some pieces but not others, I wondered how they selected which one(s) to hang.

I asked a museum curator who is quite knowledgeable about Beauford and his works about this and received a detailed reply that I have paraphrased below. According to her:

The first thing to understand is that permanent collection gallery space at any and every museum is limited. Because the goal of museums is to convey as much of the story of art history within its purview (decades, centuries, etc), a certain amount of space has to be allotted to each movement, each period, etc. There may only be the space of one gallery available to show some movements.

Photo of Beauford Delaney: From New York to Paris exposition
Display at Knoxville Museum of Art (2005)
Photo courtesy of Sue Canterbury

Works by the most famous artists are assured of exposure. “Big name” artists such as Jackson Pollack are generally favored over artists such as Beauford (both are abstract expressionist painters from the same time period) because Pollock carries more name recognition and may serve as a bigger draw as far as attendance is concerned.

Whether something is displayed also depends on the strength of the work. Not everything an artist creates is equal – all have their "off" days or experiments. A curator wants the best representations of the artist's work on view to show the artist at his or her peak. The goal is to always raise the bar of quality of the gallery overall.

If a museum owns several works by an artist and they all are reasonably good, one or maybe two will be hung. Assuming the museum doesn't have enough space to indulge in an installation of all the holdings for this artist (which most places don't), it could opt to rotate works every once in awhile to show all of them.

Works on paper cannot be permanently displayed. Watercolors fade with too much exposure and the paper used in prints and drawings can often start to brown prematurely with too much light exposure (depending on acidity content of the paper). I learned about this firsthand when I viewed the watercolor and gouache painting below at the Art Institute of Chicago. It is located in the museum's Prints and Drawings department. The colors of the work are badly faded, so the department keeps it covered and in the dark.

Photo of “Untitled” (1961) by Beauford Delaney
© Discover Paris!

The condition of the work also figures into the decision on whether to display it. Showing a damaged or dirty work would not serve the interests or image of the artist; most people cannot imagine what the work would look like without the damage and the dirt. As an example, viewing a painting with yellowed varnish is like looking at the work through a yellow filter: it extracts the blues from the colors. Thus, blue looks green, green looks yellow, red looks orangish and orange looks yellowish. Fresh yellow looks like dirty harvest gold. White, of course, looks yellowish. Thus, the palette of the painting is completely askew from what the artist intended. This altered color palette can even alter the way in which we read perspective and distance within a painting.

Add to this the fact that most museums are strapped for conservation funds to repair and clean paintings and other works. Things get dirty just by being displayed. Sometimes film deposits caused by the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system settle on the surfaces, "clouding" the appearance. There are the children who run uncontrolled by their parents and touch things, leaving prints (the oils from which collect dust and dirt and disrupt the continuity of surface appearance), write on them, sneeze on them, or even run into them, causing dishing or tears in a canvas. Museums prioritize the cleaning of the most important works that are already on display (iconic works, works by the most famous artists). Condition and upkeep is an endless, circular process.

Sometimes, a work by an artist may not fit well into the “narrative” or the aesthetic arrangement of the room in which it would be displayed – it clashes with the other works in the room because of its color palette or spirit.

We can’t forget about the “politics” of art – certain works on display could be on loan to the museum from an important donor/foundation that “requires” them to be on view. Otherwise, the donor could withdraw the artwork and possibly decide not to make permanent gifts of the desired pieces to the museum.

Finally, a curator may not like a particular artist's work and thus, decides to put it into storage.

So the fact that Beauford’s work is “off view” at certain institutions may not be an arbitrary decision. For specific answers, it is necessary to contact the individual institutions to find out why they are keeping their Delaneys in storage.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Where to Find Beauford's Art: Whitney Museum of American Art

The Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan holds five paintings by Beauford. I was able to obtain information and images for four of them.

Among these works is the self-portrait that graces the cover of the David A. Leeming biography Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney.

(1965) Oil on canvas

The museum supplied the following text about the painting:

Delaney painted Auto-portrait when in his mid-sixties, while living in a studio that his friends helped him acquire in Paris. It was one of the most fertile phases of his career, even though he was recovering from a nervous breakdown he has suffered in 1961. In his self-portrait, Delaney seems uncertain, anxious, troubled. A cigarette hangs from the corner of his mouth, as if forgotten. The hardships of his life can be traced in the craggy, heavy lines of his face. His eyes, bordered in thick, black paint, are just slightly out of alignment, giving him an unsettled, searching look.

Beauford undoubtedly painted this self-portrait in his studio on rue Vercingétorix.

Two of the Whitney’s paintings date from Beauford’s New York years:

(1948) Oil on canvas

(1950) Pastel on paper

Beauford's history with the Whitney began in New York in January 1930, a couple of months after he moved to New York from Boston. He approached a woman at the Whitney Studio Galleries (the forerunner of today’s museum) with his portfolio and was introduced to Mrs. Juliana Force, the director of purchasing and exhibitions, as a result. Mrs. Force immediately offered him a spot in a four-person show. Beauford displayed three oil portraits and nine pastels at this show. He won first prize for one of his portraits and honorable mention for the pastels that he submitted and received positive reviews from the press. Following the exhibition, the Whitney offered him a job as the studio’s caretaker and telephone operator, as well as studio and living space in the basement.

Paris Window (below) may well depict the rooftop across the street from the Hotel des Ecoles, where Beauford lived from 1953 until 1956. Regarding the location of the room, his friend Richard Gibson said, “If I remember rightly, the room was on the top floor and looked northwards over the rue Delambre. Actually, it was hard to see the street because of the guttering in the front of the floor. “

Paris Window
(1953) Pastel on paper

Beauford left this studio after an altercation with the owners of the hotel. Beauford had cooked a meal for several friends one night in December – James Baldwin, Bernard Hassell, Richard Olney, and Mary Painter – and they had a rousing good time fueled by the cognac that Baldwin brought along for the party. Baldwin did not leave Beauford’s room when the others did, and the hotel owners accused Beauford of having an overnight guest without paying for his stay. Beauford got angry and vowed to move. He vacated the premises for an apartment that Baldwin found for him in the nearby town of Clamart.

None of Beauford’s paintings are currently on display at the Whitney Museum. Scholars may view the works by appointment. To do so, contact Amy Weiss at amy_weiss[at]whitney[dot]org.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Where to Find Beauford's Art: Midwestern US

Several museums in the Midwest hold works by Beauford:

Minneapolis Institute of Arts - Minneapolis, MN
Art Institute of Chicago - Chicago, IL 
University of Michigan Museum of Art - Ann Arbor, MI
University of Iowa Museum of Art - Iowa City, IA

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) produced the most recent one-man show of Beauford's work.  It was mounted in 2004 and traveled to three U.S. museums (Knoxville Museum of Art, Greenville County Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art) before closing in January 2006.

Please refer to the following articles published on the Les Amis blog to learn more about this exposition:

Anatomy of an Art Exposition - Part 1
Anatomy of an Art Exposition - Part 2

MIA holds three works by Beauford.  The best known is the untitled abstract expressionist painting (1954) that Beauford created on a fragment of an old raincoat that he used for canvas.  Its viewing location is listed as G375 on the MIA Web site.  MIA holds two additional works by Beauford that are not currently on view:

Abstract composition (1955) Gouache and watercolor
Ciel (Sky) (1960) Color Screenprint.

I have presented the works held by the Art Institute of Chicago in a previous posting:

Beauford at the Art Institute of Chicago

including a close look at the astonishing self-portrait that hangs there.

The University of Michigan Museum of Art holds three paintings by Beauford.  Street Scene (1951) and House through Trees (1952) are oil paintings that predate his Paris years.

Street Scene
(1951) Oil on canvas

House through Trees (Yaddo)
(1952) Oil on canvas

Beauford painted Composition (1960) during the time he lived in Clamart. Though it was a turbulent year for him, it was also an active one - his works were shown in a one-man show and a group show at the Facchetti Gallery and two additional group shows in Paris.

(1960) Gouache on paper

The University of Iowa Museum of Art holds an untitled Beauford Delaney painting that dates from 1929.  It is classified as a drawing, and is not currently on view.  The orange and brown hues in this work remind me of autumn.

(1929) Watercolor 
The University of Iowa Museum of Art
Gift of the Estate of James Lechay, 2003.5

Though this painting predates what is defined as Beauford's abstract expressionist period, you can see that it is definitely an abstract work.  Indeed, biographer David A. Leeming indicates in Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney that "in the 1920s Beauford was already flirting with a more abstract approach to painting."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Les Amis blog is taking Thanksgiving Day weekend off!

May you and your loved ones be showered with blessings this weekend and throughout the holiday season.

President, Les Amis de Beauford Delaney

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Beauford and the Catalog of American Portraits

In researching last week's posting about Beauford's works at the National Portrait Gallery, I learned about the Catalog of American Portraits. Known by the acronym CAP, it maintains records of historically significant American portraits - those made of notable American subjects or created by notable American artists.

CAP has been cataloging portraits since 1971, when it initiated a survey of public and private collections across the country. Its surveyors travel to participating collections to examine the portraits firsthand and to gather additional information on each work.

Beauford's name appears eleven (11) times in the CAP search database. Three James Baldwin portraits, the portraits of May Swenson and Ethel Waters (discussed in last week's posting), and two O'Keeffe portraits of Beauford are catalogued. The remainder of the works consists of three self-portraits of Beauford and his portrait of Rosa Parks. The owners of all works are listed and photos of a few of the works are presented.

The owner of the three self-portraits and the Rosa Parks portrait is listed as Philippe Briet Inc. Philippe and Sylvain Briet operated an art gallery in Manhattan during the 1980s and 90s and worked diligently to bring Beauford's paintings to the attention of the art world. Click here to read the article that Les Amis published about the Briet Brothers in January 2010.

Philippe wrote an essay about Beauford that he addressed to Sylvain in 1995. In it, he writes of the essence of Beauford's art and spirit. The article (in French) can be found in Philippe Briet: Art Art Art, the catalog created for the 2007 exposition of the same name presented by the Lower Normandy region of France.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Beauford at the Smithsonian Institution - Part 2

Last week's posting presented works by Beauford and papers relevant to Beauford at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American Art and Archives of American Art, respectively. This week, we'll look at the holdings of the National Portrait Gallery.

I've written several times about Beauford's portrait of James Baldwin that is held by the National Portrait Gallery. The Gallery owns two additional portraits by Beauford - one of Ethel Waters and one of poet May Swenson.

The Waters portrait is a pastel on paper, dated 1940. Acquired in February 2011, it is listed as a "prominent work" in a fact sheet published by the Smithsonian in September 2011. There is no image of the portrait displayed on the Gallery's Web site; however, the grayscale image below can be found in Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, David A. Leeming's biography of Beauford.

Ethel Waters
(1940) Pastel on Paper

Leeming indicates that Beauford began creating a series of charcoal and pastel drawings of "jazz musicians and other important figures" in the late 1930s at the urging of W. C. Handy. Waters, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong were among them.

There is an image of the May Swenson portrait online at the Catalog of American Portraits Web site:

May Swenson
(1960) Pastel and chalk on paper

Swenson and Beauford met at the Yaddo Art Colony in Saratoga Springs in 1950. Swenson and her daughter visited Beauford in Paris in 1954.

The National Portrait Gallery also owns one of Georgia O'Keeffe's masterful pastel portraits of Beauford, which I wrote about in the August 2010 issue of this blog.

Beauford Delaney
Georgia O'Keeffe
(1943) Pastel on paper

Click here to listen to the audio recording that the National Portrait Gallery has posted about the portrait.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Beauford at the Smithsonian Institution - Part 1

As part of my mission to provide you with information about where Beauford's works can be found in the U.S. and around the world, I am bringing you a two-part accounting of works by and about Beauford that are held at the Smithsonian Institution.

Earlier this year, I published a guest posting by Jason Steiber of the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art about the museum’s acquisition of Darthea Speyer's papers, which contain several items related to Beauford. This article lists nine additional collections of archives that are relevant to Beauford's life and art.

The American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery hold two of Beauford's paintings, neither of which is currently on display. One is an undated abstraction - a gouache on paper that was donated to the museum. The other is Can Fire in the Park, dated 1946 and painted in oil on canvas. It was purchased by the museum.

Can Fire in the Park
(1946) Oil on canvas

In a brief biography of Beauford written by Lynda Roscoe Hartigan and formerly posted on the museum's Web site, the following description of this painting can be found:

In Can Fire in the Park, [SAAM 1989.23] anonymous men gather near a source of heat, light, and camaraderie. This disturbingly contemporary vignette conveys a legacy of deprivation linked not only to the Depression years after 1929 but also to the longstanding disenfranchisement of black Americans, portrayed here as social outcasts. At the lower left and upper right, objects that suggest street signs also function as arrows symbolically pointing the way up and out of desolation. Despite its sober subject,the scene crackles with energy, the culmination of Delaney's sharp pure colors, thickly applied paints, and taut, schematic patterning. Abandoning the precise realism of his early academic training, Delaney developed a lyrically expressive style that drew upon his love of musical rhythms and his improvisational use of color. Works such as Can Fire in the Park hover between representation and abstraction as that style evolved during the 1940s.

In another brief biography currently found on the Web site, Regenia A. Perry indicates that Beauford earned the title "dean of American Negro painters living abroad" during his Paris years.

Next week, I'll present the works held by the National Portrait Gallery.

(Article updated on October 22, 2017)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Where to find Beauford's Art: Swann Galleries

Swann Galleries launched its African-American Fine Art department in 2007. It is the only major auction house conducting regular sales of African-American fine art today. The works that it sells are consigned by individuals, libraries, schools, museums, and dealers the world over.

Since 2007, Swann Galleries has put twenty-eight (28) of Beauford’s paintings up for auction. Over 60% of them sold, with prices ranging from $8,400 to $102,000. Here are a few images of works that sold:

Street Sweeper (Le Balayeur)
(1968) Oil on canvas
Photo courtesy of Swann Galleries

Swann Galleries describes this painting as “poetic and modernist,” and says that it is a “culmination of Beauford Delaney's important work in both figurative and abstract painting in Paris, and an outstanding example of his later work.” The author of this description considered that Beauford portrayed himself metaphorically in this work as “an isolated man of African descent working in a foreign place, with the broom representing the artist's paint brush.”

Street Sweeper (Le Balayeur) was auctioned in February 2011. The sale price was $96,000.

The painting below was auctioned this month (October 2011). It sold for $9600.

Untitled (Gray, Red and Yellow Abstraction)
(1962) Gouache and watercolor on cream wove paper
Photo courtesy of Swann Galleries

Swann Galleries' Web site indicates that the auction house acquired this work directly from Beauford’s brother, Joseph. The date of acquisition was not mentioned.

The work below is an abstract expressionist painting in which Beauford’s favorite color – yellow – predominates. The sale value from its auction in February 2008 was $102,000.

(ca. 1958) Oil on canvas
Photo courtesy of Swann Galleries

Additional images of the Beauford Delaney paintings auctioned by Swann Galleries can be found on their Web site. Look for them in the online auction catalogs for February 2007, February 2008, February 2009, February 2010, October 2010, February 2011, and October 2011. In addition, see the catalog for an auction held in June 2010 entitled Out of the Blue: Modern Art and Jazz, where Beauford’s Untitled (Composition in Blue) sold for $19,200.

The prices that you see will see in the catalogs for the works discussed above are lower than those quoted in this article. Swann Galleries' Hillary Brody explained why:

At auction, there are two prices--the hammer price, or the price at which the item sells during the auction, and the price with the buyer's premium. All auction houses have a buyer's premium that the buyer pays to the auction house on top of the hammer price. Swann's premium is 20%.

Swann Galleries reports the "hammer price" for each painting in its catalogs, while prices that include the buyer's premium can be found on its sales results page.

Swann Galleries’ African-American Fine Art auctions are generally held in February and October of each year. Items that are up for sale can be viewed at the auction house for several days prior to each auction. The auction house encourages any and all interested parties to come to their facility to visit the preview exhibitions.

Swann Galleries
104 East 25th Street
New York, NY 10010
Telephone: 212-254-4710

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Where to Find Beauford's Art: New England

If you live in New England, or are planning a visit there, note that you can see works by Beauford at the following museums:

Worcester Art Museum - Worcester, Massachusetts
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art - Hartford, Connecticut
Bowdoin College Museum of Art - Brunswick, Maine

The Worcester Art Museum holds a portrait entitled Portrait of Gaylord. It is on view in the Rose Gallery on the fourth floor of the museum.

Portrait of Gaylord
(1944) Oil on canvas mounted on artist board

Here is the description of the painting furnished by the museum:

When Beauford Delaney moved to New York City in 1929 he quickly fell in with the writers and artists of the time including Charles Alston, Henry Miller, James Baldwin, and musicians Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Marian Anderson. Throughout his life he painted portraits of the friends he had made, though the identity of some, including Gaylord in this painting, remains a mystery. Gaylord is thought to have been a musician, a pianist with two fingers missing on one hand, who played at a club that Beauford frequented. To the right of Gaylord’s face is an image of a piano player, perhaps Gaylord himself, while on the left is a figure, possibly Delaney, standing in front of an easel. This work, with its bright colors and swirled brushstrokes is reminiscent of one of Delaney’s main influences: Vincent van Gogh.

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art owns an abstract expressionist painting by Beauford that it currently holds in storage.

Untitled (Green)
(1961) Oil on canvas

This work was selected to be shown in the exposition The Color Yellow, mounted by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia in 2002. The exhibit traveled to the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Anacostia Museum and Center for African History and Culture at the Smithsonian, and the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University. The Wadsworth Atheneum museum describes it as “an abstracted composition of pink and green swirls.”

Those wishing to see this painting should contact Patricia Hickson, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Wadsworth Atheneum museum.

The work owned by the Bowdoin College Museum of Art is an abstract expressionist painting that was given to the museum by halley k. harrisburg (alumma of Bowdoin, Class of 1990) and Michael Rosenfeld. It is not currently on view.

(1960) Oil on canvas

I will update this posting when I am able to obtain further information about the paintings at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Celebrating Beauford - 1st Anniversary!

On Friday, October 14, 2011, Les Amis de Beauford Delaney hosted a small gathering to mark the first anniversary of the gravesite ceremony and reception that celebrated the laying of the tombstone at Beauford’s eternal home at Thiais Cemetery. Several friends gathered at the Select Café in Montparnasse to share food and drink and to honor Beauford’s memory. The Select was one of Beauford’s favorite cafés in Montparnasse.

Select Café
© Discover Paris!

U.S. Ambassador Charles Rivkin extended his regrets, as he was out of the country and could not join the festivities. Last year he wrote a strong letter of support for the Beauford Delaney Gravesite Project when Les Amis was in the midst of its fundraising campaign.

Velma Bury, advisor to Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, spoke briefly about Ed Clark, a great friend of Beauford. Like Beauford, Ed often frequented the Select.

The Reverend Doctor Scott Herr, who presided at the gravesite ceremony last year, spent part of the evening with us.

I hope you’ll enjoy these photos that were taken at the event.

Beauford spies the pain surprise
© Discover Paris!

The gathering
© Discover Paris!

Velma Bury addressing the crowd
© Discover Paris!

Listening attentively
© Discover Paris!

Monique addressing the crowd
© Discover Paris!

James Morant and Reverend Scott Herr
© Discover Paris!

Monique and Beauford calling it a night!
© Discover Paris!

Visit the Entrée to Black Paris Facebook page to see the complete photo album!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Where to Find Beauford's Art: Museums in the Tri-state Area

Those living in the tri-state area (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware) will be pleased to learn that there are three museums that hold works by Beauford!

I've already presented the portrait of James Baldwin at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in a recent posting. There is a second painting by Beauford at this museum as well. It is an oil-on-canvas portrait of two women named Marian and Betty. Though neither painting is currently being displayed, you can get a close-up view of them on the PMA Web site by clicking on the hyperlinks in this paragraph.

There are two pieces at the Newark Museum: The Burning Bush (1941) and Portrait of a Man (1943).

The Burning Bush
(1941) Oil on paperboard

Portrait of a Man
(1943) Pastel on paper

Only The Burning Bush is currently displayed for public view. It can be found in the American Art section. The museum provided the following description of it:

The Burning Bush deals with the biblical subject from the Book of Exodus. This multicolored painting has a wonderful expressive style that vibrantly evokes the underlying energies animating this subject. The paint is applied very thickly on the surface, which may not come across in the photographs.

If you would like to arrange a private viewing Portrait of a Man, you may make a request in advance of your visit. The museum makes every effort to accommodate various scholars and individuals. The staff needs to know the reason and the nature of inquiry of every individual so that it can better serve you.

The Delaware Art Museum holds a Delaney on reserve. It was given to the museum by Michael Rosenfeld in 1995.

(1961) Oil on canvas

The museum provides this description:

This 1961 painting was produced in Paris. It is inscribed “pour mon frère M. Bigud [?]” and bears the label of Paul Facchetti’s Paris gallery. Like many of Delaney’s paintings from this period, it features subtly modulated color and active brushwork. The small canvas is covered from edge to edge in shades of yellow, white, and pale green. From a distance, it seems to resolve into a pattern, but, as the viewer approaches, the artist’s delicate touch becomes apparent. In some areas, the weave of the canvas is exposed, while in others thick, scumbled paint projects from the surface. With its monochromatic palette, active surface, and all-over composition, this painting fits comfortably into the abstract expressionist idiom.

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Where to Find Beauford's Art: Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

The Michael Rosenfeld Gallery (MRG) has the most extensive collection of Beauford's work in the world today. As I've previously reported in this blog, MRG frequently presents Beauford's paintings in its expositions, and has mounted two solo exhibits of his work. The gallery was a major contributor to the Beauford Delaney Gravesite Project, and provided the donation that allowed Les Amis to reach its fundraising goal.

In its current exposition entitled Evolution in Action, MRG presents "art pairings" of works created by several of its preferred artists, where an early painting by each artist is juxtaposed with a later painting that represents that artist's "signature" style. The gallery has selected the paintings below to compare Beauford's earlier work with that of the abstract expressionist work of his later years.

Beauford Delaney (1901-1979)
(1945) Oil on canvas
25" x 30", signed
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

Beauford Delaney (1901-1979)
(1963) Oil on canvas
39 1/2" x 32", signed and dated
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY

MRG describes these two paintings as follows:
The bright yellow lemons of Delaney's untitled still life (1945) provide the inspiration for the vibrant yellows and soft blues and greens that make up his untitled abstraction from 1963; a subsequent glance back at the lemons then reveals that Delaney's treatment of color was always complex, that he always saw and was able to reveal the variety of shades, tones, and hues within what seemed to be a single color.

Visit the gallery to see and appreciate these works! Evolution in Action is on view until October 29, 2011.

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery
24 West 57th Street, 7th floor
New York, NY 10019
Tel: 212-247-0082
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10 AM - 6 PM; Mondays by appointment

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Beauford’s Portrait of Colin Gravois

In December 2010, I published an account of Colin Gravois’s friendship with Beauford as Colin relayed it to me in an interview. Colin describes the experience of sitting for a portrait with Beauford and regretting that he did not return to Beauford’s studio to recuperate it before Beauford was committed to Saint Anne’s Hospital.

Here is the portrait that Beauford painted of Colin:

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

Colin has managed to obtain a photograph of him sitting in front of the portrait that Beauford created. He sent it to me to share with all of you! Here it is:

Photograph of Colin Gravois in front of his portrait painted by Beauford Delaney
Photo courtesy of Colin Gravois

This photo was taken at Beauford’s studio on rue Vercingétorix. (Note the other paintings on the wall behind Beauford’s portrait of Colin.)

Unlike the abstract nature of some of his portraits of James Baldwin, Beauford rendered a true likeness of Colin in this painting. Its whereabouts are currently unknown.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Where to Find Beauford’s Art: Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts

In Romare Bearden and Harry Henderson’s chapter on Beauford in A History of African-American Artists – From 1792 to the Present, the authors state that “Beauford Delaney has no long list of museum credits, prizes, or awards.” While Beauford may not have won many prizes, he certainly has numerous museum credits to his name. Many date after the publication of Bearden and Henderson’s book; all deserve to be brought to light. This is what I will attempt to do in the next several postings on this blog.

Let’s begin with a work that belongs to the Musée cantonal des Beaux Arts in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Mémoire (Memory)
Beauford Delaney
(ca. 1964) Oil on canvas, 192 x 129.5 cm
Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts
© Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne
Photo: J.-C. Ducret

Monsieur René Berger, director of the museum from 1962-1981, learned of Beauford’s work during an exposition organized by the museum in 1963. The “1er Salon international de galeries-pilotes” (1st International “Pioneer Galleries” Salon) was held from June 21 – September 22, 1963, where Beauford’s Composition (1958) was presented by the Paul Facchetti Gallery. Berger selected the Facchetti Gallery and three other galleries from New York, Milan, and Paris for this first of three expositions that he organized to showcase galleries with a spirit of openness and discovery regarding art and artists.

Berger subsequently visited Beauford at his studio on rue Vercingétorix.

Mémoire was acquired by the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts in 1964 (Inv. 1964-011). According to Beauford’s biographer,
David A. Leeming, the sale was arranged by Beauford’s dear friend Ahmed Bioud. The painting is currently archived at the museum.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Beauford at the Centre Pompidou

I recently discovered that the Centre Pompidou is in possession of one of Beauford's paintings:

Beauford Delaney
(1957) Oil on canvas, 1.62 m x 1.14 m
(C) Collection Centre Pompidou, Dist. RMN / Philippe Migeat

This is a phenomenal work; when I first saw the image of it, I was dazzled! I wanted to go immediately to the Pompidou Center to see it, but unfortunately, I learned that the painting is not currently being displayed.

The painting was donated sous reserve d'usufruit (under usufruct) to the museum in 1994 by M. and Mme du Closel, who were devoted patrons of Beauford for much of his life in Paris. "Usufruct" means that the museum has the legal right to use and derive profit or benefit from the painting, as long as it is not damaged. Ownership is retained by the du Closels until their death.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

September - A Milestone Month for Beauford and Les Amis

A year has already passed since I proudly announced on this blog that Les Amis de Beauford Delaney had been successful at placing a tombstone at Beauford's previously unmarked grave! The date was September 2, 2010. View the blog posting here:


September 2 is also Beauford's presumed arrival date in France, given that he sailed on the SS Liberté on August 28, 1953 and that this ocean liner generally made the transatlantic voyage in five days.

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

I plan to continue posting about Beauford here for the next several weeks as I share information that I am uncovering about Beauford's art. I have invited a few people to provide guest postings on this topic, and am encouraging them to keep their commitments to submit their articles. So stay tuned!

I would really appreciate your feedback on the blog, and strongly encourage you to leave your comments in the space below. I also hope that you will share this blog with friends by clicking on one of the social media buttons below. Thanks very much!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Romare Bearden and Harry Henderson on Beauford

Romare Bearden, an African-American artist and writer, co-authored a book called A History of African-American Artists – from 1792 to the Present with Anglo-American journalist Harry Henderson. The book contains a brief chapter (seven pages) devoted to Beauford.

The chapter is primarily biographical, but there are also several scholarly descriptions of Beauford’s works. Bearden and Henderson include a frank criticism of Henry Miller’s essay “The Amazing and Invariable Beauford Delaney,” which they describe as a patronizing article that gives a false picture of Beauford as “a mindless, visionary artist.”

There are interesting tidbits of information about Beauford in this chapter and scattered throughout the book, such as the fact that Beauford’s parents named him after the town of Beaufort, South Carolina, from which they migrated during the Civil War. In the six-page chapter on Beauford’s brother Joseph, we learn that some 300 Americans attended Beauford’s funeral service at the American Church in Paris and that the pastor presiding over that service was from the brothers’ home state of Tennessee.

One of the color plates in the book displays Beauford’s portrait of James Baldwin entitled The Sage Black, and cites it as belonging to Mrs. James Jones of Sagaponack, N. Y. at the time the book was published. A black and white photo of Beauford’s 1962 self-portrait (below) is also cited as belonging to Mrs. Jones, who is undoubtedly the wife of writer James Jones, a great friend of Beauford during his Paris years.

Beauford’s 1962 self-portrait as shown on the invitation card of the
1992 Darthea Speyer exposition of Beauford’s works
Card courtesy of the Darthea Speyer Gallery

But my greatest discovery in perusing this book is a photo of a young Beauford looking over the shoulder of Palmer Hayden as Hayden paints at a 1930s outdoor art show in Washington Square in New York City.

Palmer C. Hayden and Beauford Delaney at Washington Square, NYC (1930s)
Photo from the National Archives, Harmon Collection

It is rare to find photos of the young Beauford!