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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Clamart: Beauford's Suburban Paris Home

In his introduction for Beauford's 1964 exposition at the Gallery Lambert in Paris, James Baldwin wrote:
In any case, from Tennessee, he eventually came to Paris (I have the impression that he walked and swam) and for awhile lived in a suburb of Paris, Clamart...

There was a window in Beauford's house in Clamart before which we often sat—late at night, early in the morning, at noon. This window looked out on a garden; or rather, it would have looked out on a garden if it had not been for the leaves and branches of a large tree which pressed directly against the window.

Everything one saw from this window, then, was filtered through these leaves...
I visited the city of Clamart earlier this week to find this house, the address of which—68, rue Paul Vaillant Couturier—is indicated in Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney. It stands at the top of a hill, a few doors away from the five-point roundabout at place Marquis and nestled between two other free-standing dwellings behind a stone wall.

68, rue Paul Vaillant Couturier, Clamart
© Discover Paris!

Biographer David A. Leeming tells us that the apartment was on the ground floor and that the window looked onto a garden in the back of the house. Though I was unable to enter the property at No. 68, I was able to see part of a garden behind a gate a few doors down the street; perhaps its appearance approximates what Beauford and Baldwin saw through Beauford's window:

Private garden on rue Paul Vaillant Couturier
© Discover Paris!

Beauford lived in Clamart from 1956 until late 1961-early 1962. I have been unable to find any photos of the area, or of the city in general, that date from this period. However, many of the buildings in the immediate vicinity appear to be old enough to have existed then.

Corner of rue des Rochers and rue Estienne d'Orves
© Discover Paris!

8, avenue Schneider
© Discover Paris!

1, avenue Schneider
© Discover Paris!

Significant renovation of such buildings is ongoing in the area, so at least some of the character of the neighborhood is being preserved.

The bar-tabac-brasserie Le Narval, on the other hand, has no genteel architectural features. It is located at 72, rue Paul Vaillant Couturier, on the corner with rue des Rochers and place Marquis.

Le Narval
© Discover Paris!

Beauford's home was ideally situated in that he was only a few blocks from the center of town and only two blocks from the forest called Bois de Clamart. Leeming tells us that he called it his "place in the country."

Today, small private lanes,

Rue Henry, a private lane
© Discover Paris!

wisteria tumbling gracefully over stone walls,

Wisteria overhanging a stone wall on rue Paul Vaillant Couturier
© Discover Paris!

and dazzling flower beds in public areas

Flower bed on rue du Président Roosevelt
© Discover Paris!

preserve a bit of the country atmosphere that Beauford enjoyed during his time there.

1 comment:

Vercin said...

I have watched an interview of Beauford Delaney aired on french television in 1961 that could have been taken in Clamart.
I can send you screen capture of the video.
Sincerely yours.