The image below is a screenshot from the page on the Whitney Museum Web site that promotes the exposition. The painting on the right was done by Beauford - it is called Portrait of a Young Musician and is on loan from the Studio Museum in Harlem. It is not dated. (Click on the image for a larger view of the portrait.)
Beauford experienced his first major break as an artist at the Whitney, where he exhibited twelve works (three oils and nine pastels) at a four-person show that ran from February 26 to March 8, 1930. He won first prize for one of his pastels and honorable mention for the other works that he submitted for this show.
There is no indication on their Web site as to why the Whitney chose Portrait of a Young Musician among dozens of others to represent this exhibit. But I think you'll agree that the work is compelling. During a Google search, I found a blog post by a young woman named Kiffe Coco that echoes this sentiment. Coco says that as soon as she laid eyes on the painting, she was deeply intrigued. She goes on to describe how the image evoked thoughts of Paris:
I was introduced to this piece on Tuesday at the Studio Museum of Harlem while working a workshop, and just looking at it, I thought of Paris and then somehow, James Baldwin's image popped into my head. His scarf, his crossed legs, his expression all led me to believe that this guy had been spending some time in the City of Light...Blues for Smoke is being accompanied by a series of performances, events, screenings, and readings, all of which showcase the enduring legacy and innovative possibilities of the blues in contemporary music and live art. It will run until April 28, 2013.
Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street
New York, NY 10021
General Information: (212) 570-3600
Click here for information on hours and admission fees.