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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Where to Find Beauford's Art: Knoxville Museum of Art

I am very pleased to share the news that the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) now houses the paintings for the Delaney estate! The estate executor has allowed the KMA to display the works shown below. Stephen C. Wicks, Barbara W. and Bernard E. Bernstein Curator for the museum, provides the commentary.


Scattered Light
(1964) Oil on canvas
36 5/8 X 28 3/4 inches
© Estate of Beauford Delaney, by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator

Scattered Light appears to vibrate with a warm orange glow at first glance. Upon closer inspection one realizes this warm glow is produced by short, thick strokes of yellow, white, green, blue, and red oil pigment applied in dense clusters. For me, Scattered Light’s rich textures and vibrant colors are reminiscent of Monet’s paintings of Rouen Cathedral.

This work is currently hung beside a painting by Joseph Delaney from our collection that is being shown in the KMA’s ongoing flagship exhibition Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee. Joseph's Marble Collegiate Church (1974-75, oil on canvas, 72 X 47 3/4 inches) depicts a bustling Manhattan crowd dwarfed by a towering church spire and a turbulent sky. Its distinctive frame was designed and built by the artist. In 1986, Joseph returned to Knoxville and was artist-in-residence at University of Tennessee until his death in 1991.

Installation shot at the KMA showing Scattered Light (left) beside Joseph Delaney’s Marble Collegiate Church (right)
Photo courtesy of Knoxville Museum of Art

Higher Ground is housed in one of the two large top-floor galleries. A permanent installation, it traces the development of fine art in the region over the past century. It tells the largely unknown story of East Tennessee’s rich artistic history and its connections to the larger currents of American art. Featured works are drawn from the KMA collection along with selected works on loan from museums and private collections from around the country.

KMA owns several major paintings by Joseph, but none by Beauford. I consider our lack of Beauford’s work as the single most important acquisition goal for our museum.

Beauford's portrait of his niece Imogene Delaney now hangs in our new temporary exhibition Tradition Redefined: The Larry and Brenda Thompson Collection of African American Art, which is on view through June 16, 2013.

Portrait of Imogene Delaney
(1963) Oil on canvas
38 ½ x 31 inches
Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia
The Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Collection of African American Art
GMOA 2011.584

The portrait is made up predominantly of yellow pigment applied in flat, even strokes. Some orange hues appear in the upper 1/3 of the composition. Interestingly, Imogene appears to hover in space because Beauford opted to apply yellow over the area where her armchair would have appeared in order to erase any evidence of its existence.

The Thompsons' extensive collection redefines the landscape of African American art, offering an in-depth, inclusive understanding of artists and their aesthetic and social concerns. Featured artists include Radcliffe Bailey, Romare Bearden, Camille Billops, Beauford Delaney, Joseph Delaney, Lois Mailou Jones, Norman Lewis, and Hale Woodruff. The fact that Tradition Redefined allows viewers to consider Beauford’s and Joseph’s work within the larger context of African American art is one of the major reasons why the KMA was eager to bring the exhibition to Knoxville.

Tradition Redefined hangs in the lower galleries at the KMA. It was organized by the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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