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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beauford and Al Hirschfeld

Caricature of Beauford Delaney (1941)
Albert Hirschfeld
Charcoal on paper, Private collection
Image from Beauford Delaney: New York to Paris catalog
Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Al Hirschfeld was a well-known caracaturist and a friend of Beauford. Little detail is available in print about their relationship, but it is evident that Hirschfeld (and his wife, Dolly) were very fond of Beauford and supportive of him as well.

Much of what we know comes from the Leeming biography Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney. Beauford met Hirschfeld in New York, when Beauford was working as a doorman at the Whitney Studio Galleries (which would become the Whitney Museum). They became friends, and Beauford would go on to sketch Hirschfeld and paint his portrait. Hirschfeld was a part of Beauford's life during the "New York Years," socializing with him and introducing him to people who would become Beauford's patrons and friends as well. He and his wife would also visit Beauford several times in Paris.

Leeming indicates that Hirschfeld, Don Freeman, and other friends helped Beauford through a period of depression that began at the end of 1941. Hirschfeld contributed funds for the ticket that Beauford purchased to sail to France in 1953 and arranged for Beauford to meet people in the art gallery world once he arrived in Paris. He introduced Beauford to Sergei Radamsky, a singer and music teacher with whom Beauford would travel through Europe in 1954. When Beauford needed medical care after his suicide attempt in 1961, Hirschfeld was among the many friends that sent money to settle Beauford's hospital bill.

Al Hirschfeld's papers are held by the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian. Among them, one finds letters from Beauford to Hirschfeld and a loan agreement from the Studio Museum in Harlem for one of Beauford's works. Two Delaney paintings that were owned by the Hirschfelds' were shown at the Studio Museum's 1978 exposition of Beauford's works: The Time of Your Life and Greene Street.


DLeopold said...

Hirschfeld and Freeman were instrumental in introducing Delaney to a wide range of friends and collectors, which provided him the means to focus on his art. Several works on paper by Delaney from Hirschfeld's collection will go to the auction block on June 22nd. Check it out at

About Beauford Delaney said...

Hi DLeopold,

Thanks so much for making me aware of ths auction! I visited the site and found a single Delaney pastel that has been assigned a lot number. Here is the URL for viewing the work:

Edmond G. Belanger said...