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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Delaney - Downing - Lee: Group Show at the American Cultural Center in Paris - 1961

In 1961, Beauford participated in a three-person show at the American Cultural Center in Paris. The other artists whose works were displayed were painter Joe Downing and sculptor Caroline Lee.


Joe Downing was an abstract expressionist painter and a fellow southerner, hailing from the state of Kentucky and arriving in Paris in 1950. Both he and Beauford loved jazz and they spent many hours listening to music at Downing's apartment in the Marais. Paintings by these two artists also hung together in shows at the Galerie Arnaud in Paris in 1956 and at the American Cultural Center in 1965.

Downing would paint the sign that said "We Love Beauford" for the retrospective that the American Cultural Center mounted of Beauford's work in 1969.

Caroline Lee was also an American artist from Chicago who came to Paris on a Fulbright scholarship in 1958. I am unaware of any social connections that she and Beauford may have had outside of this show.

Darthea Speyer was in charge at the American Cultural Center at the time of the 1961 show. Only a few months afterward, she would take charge of Beauford's affairs when he jumped overboard while sailing to Greece to meet her for a sponsored painting excursion there. Beauford painted an exquisite portrait of her in 1965.

Darthea Speyer
(1965) Oil on canvas
Image courtesy of Galerie Darthea Speyer
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

I located a rare copy of the catalog for the Delaney - Downing - Lee exhibition at the Kandinsky Library at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Delaney - Downing - Lee catalog cover
© Discover Paris!

Art critic Julian Alvard wrote the introduction to the catalog. He was quite familiar with Beauford's work, having included it in a group show that he organized at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in 1959. He praised Beauford's art, saying it was "open to all the virtues of the sun" and declaring that Beauford had "found the grace that he sought to achieve."

The catalog contains a single page of information about each artist, including a photo and a short list of expositions. On Beauford's page, the notations for his birth year and the year he arrived in Paris are incorrect.

Beauford's page in the American Cultural Center catalog
© Discover Paris!

The catalog does not contain information about the works shown at the American Cultural Center. However, loose leaf inserts present two works by Caroline Lee, one by Joe Downing, and one by Beauford.

Untitled
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

There was no indication of the media used and no mention of a title or whether the work was dated or signed.

The Delaney-Downing-Lee exposition attracted the attention of the acclaimed art critic Jean Guichard-Meili, who was so captivated by Beauford's work that he arranged a private visit to see Beauford's entire body of work at Beauford's Clamart studio.

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