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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Beauford and Larry Calcagno

An Artistic Friendship: Beauford Delaney and Lawrence Calcagno
Catalog cover for art exposition
Palmer Museum of Art (2001)

Larry Calcagno was one of Beauford’s closest friends. They met in Paris through their mutual friend Charley Boggs. Beauford and Calcagno were both artists, both gay men, and both deeply philosophical. Beauford’s biographer, David A. Leeming, describes their relationship as “intellectually intense, but for the most part physically platonic.”

Calcagno had a studio on rue Vercingétorix, the street where Beauford’s patron Mme du Closel would later purchase a studio for Beauford. Beauford spent a great deal of time there before Calcagno returned to the United States. Calcagno gave Beauford several canvases, paper for watercolor paintings, and paints prior to his departure.

See a letter written by Beauford to Calcagno, dated December 1953, below.

Letter from Beauford to Larry Calcagno, December 1953
Images: Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Instititution

The two men would correspond regularly for many years, with Beauford frequently confiding his emotional difficulties to Calcagno in his writings.

Calcagno returned to Europe in 1955, and invited Beauford to accompany him on the first of several trips that they would take together. He and Beauford traveled to Madrid for Calcagno’s art exposition at the Gallery Clan. Calcagno was able to convince the gallery to mount a show for Beauford in June 1955. It was Beauford’s first solo exposition in Europe, and it was a commercial success. In 1956, Calcagno and Beauford visited Ibiza, Spain, where they met up with James Baldwin and other friends. Calcagno, Darthea Speyer, and Charley Boggs took Beauford on a trip to Venice in 1966, where they attended the Bienniale exposition.

Larry Calcagno, Beauford, and Charley Boggs in Venice
Photo from Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney (1998)

Calcagno would frequently send Beauford money with his letters – money that Beauford often desperately needed. When Beauford required hospitalization after his 1961 suicide attempt, Calcagno contributed money to pay for Beauford’s care and came to Paris to visit Beauford during this difficult time. In the spring of 1975, he interrupted his European travels to come to Paris to search for Beauford, who had disappeared. Calcagno wrote of this episode, saying:
He disappeared a couple of times. This time he can’t seem to be located. We called and looked in all the places where one might want to disappear to—I know a lot of them. He must still be alive, his body would have shown up. He has just simply dissolved himself to escape the final cruelty of the world. I weep for him and I bless him!
Beauford was eventually found. He was committed to Sainte-Anne’s Hospital soon thereafter.

The relationship between Beauford and Larry Calcagno can be summarized in a single phrase that Beauford wrote in a letter to Calcagno in 1968, in which he described a “deathless kinship that is constant [and] is always alive and close between us.”

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