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.!

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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)

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