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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Beauford and the Brouards - Part 1

I have published several articles about Robert Tricoire and his collection of Beauford’s work. Thanks to him, I had the pleasure of meeting Geneviève and Jean-Claude Brouard, who were also friends of Beauford. The Brouards graciously invited Robert, James LeGros (a principal member of Beauford’s tutelle), and me to an amazing lunch in honor of Beauford at their home in Fontainebleau.

Around the table at the Brouards
From left to right – Robert Tricoire, Geneviève Brouard, James K. LeGros, Monique Y. Wells, Jean-Claude Brouard
Photo by Christian Parramon

I was particularly interested in meeting Geneviève because she is the founder of the French non-profit association Les Amis de James Keville LeGros. She is working to create a catalogue raisonnée of Jim’s art. I hope that Les Amis de Beauford Delaney will be able to do the same for Beauford in the near future.

Geneviève and Jean-Claude met Beauford through Jim LeGros. They, Jim and his wife Bunny, and Beauford went on to forge an enduring friendship. Robert Tricoire also met Beauford because of Jim. Though Beauford was considerably older than them when they met, his humor and his gentle spirit drew them to him. I was honored to listen to them talk about their experiences with Beauford and to laugh with them as they walked down memory lane.

We met at the Brouards’ splendid home on a beautiful sunny afternoon. As we enjoyed our appetizers, they laid out numerous documents and photos of Beauford. They allowed me to photograph the ones for which they did not have copies.

Several of these photos were snapped around the table at which we were about to dine. At the time they were taken, Beauford had stopped shaving himself and having his hair colored (Bunny LeGros used to do this for him).

Bunny LeGros, Jean-Claude Brouard, and Beauford
Image courtesy of Geneviève Brouard

Beauford, Jim LeGros, and Geneviève Brouard
© Discover Paris!

Geneviève recounted the story of one of her most cherished memories of Beauford – that of Beauford inspiring her father to get up and dance the Charleston in his house slippers! She regrets to this day that no photos were taken of the occasion.

Jim LeGros’ painting, 96 Cases, hangs in the Brouard dining room. A mini-portrait of Beauford figures among the many images that comprise this work (5th row, 9th image from the left), as do a mini-portrait of Geneviève (second row, 8th image from the left) and one of Jean-Claude (third row, 11th image from the left). Jim LeGros placed his own image and signed the painting in the bottom row at the far right.

96 Cases
(1975) Acrylic on canvas
25.2 x 48.8 inches ; 64 x 124 cm
Signed at lower right: JKL X -75
© James Keville LeGros
Image by Discover Paris!

Geneviève noted that a photo appearing in David Leeming’s biography of Beauford, Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, is incorrectly described as having been taken at Beauford’s studio. In fact, the photo was taken in her dining room – 96 Cases is clearly visible on the wall behind Beauford.

Photo of Beauford at the Brouards’ dining room table
Image courtesy of Geneviève Brouard

We moved to the dining room to continue the meal and the conversation. Geneviève recalled that Beauford had joined the group and gone to see the movie La Grande Bouffe at a cinema near Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Près. The star-studded film (a drama) was considered quite risqué at the time – the plot concerned four men who decided to retire to a private villa and eat themselves to death. Beauford – who Geneviève noted was frequently hungry – watched scene after scene of these men stuffing themselves at tables overflowing with food and began to laugh. His laughter was so infectious that the entire audience began to laugh!

Geneviève shared another story that she remembered concerning Beauford and food. Beauford was frequently invited to eat by friends, not only because they enjoyed his company, but also because they knew that he did not eat regularly because of his poverty. At one such gathering, someone commented to Beauford that he should invite everyone next time. He quickly accepted and went on to organize a simple meal at his studio on rue Vercingétorix. Paella was the main course. Everyone sat on the floor around Beauford’s bed and each person served himself / herself from a communal dish that passed from hand to hand. When Beauford feared that there was not enough food to satisfy everyone, he opened a can of peas and everyone was served directly from the can!

In Part 2 of this article, I’ll share more stories about Beauford and the Brouards.

Les Amis dedicates this article to Jean-Claude Brouard, who passed away on May 27, 2014. May you rest in peace, Jean-Claude.

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