Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is partnering with the Wells International Foundation (WIF) to take the Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition to the U.S.!

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color: A Critical Review of Beauford’s Portraiture

Marc Albert-Levin is a French art critic, translator, and writer. Author of numerous monographs on contemporary artists, he has collaborated with a number of published reviews over the years. These include Cimaise, Les Lettres françaises, Jazz Hot, Passage d’Encre, and Art Press.

The text below represents Albert-Levin’s English translation of excerpts from his most recent essay, “L’anachronique du flâneur N° 12,”
("Anachronic Chronicle, N° 12"), which is published in French at www.saisonsdeculture.com.

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When, at the beginning of a recent visit, Michel Ragon asked me his recurrent question: “What have you done this week?”, it was not easy to answer. Because for me that week had been mainly marked by the exhibition, at the Columbia Global Centers in Montparnasse, of an African-American painter I knew well and greatly admired. His name was Beauford Delaney and I could not think about him without emotion or affection.

Catalog cover: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color
Self-portrait
Undated, Oil on canvas
76 x 57 cm; 29.9" x 22.4"
Private collection
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

The exhibition held at the Columbia Global Centers in Paris at 4, rue de Chevreuse, 75006 from February 4th to February 26th 2016 (editor’s note: the exhibition was extended through March 15th) presented some forty works of Beauford Delaney: oils on canvas, watercolors, colored inks or mixed technique on paper, all coming from private collections in Paris.

Beauford lived in Paris from 1953 to 1979, the year of his death. For twenty years, his work played on two registers. First what was called in France "lyrical abstraction" and in the US "abstract expressionism". On the other hand, he did portraits in a very personal fashion. It is as if he had abandoned all conventions, with a desire, for each canvas, to paint as he had never done it before. I see no other equivalent, with the possible exception of “Le Douanier” Rousseau’s portraits that can be seen right now (April 2016) in a beautiful exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay.

In Beauford’s portraits there is something that might have more to do with the empathy felt by the painter for his model than with pictorial technique. An effort, when he faces the man or the woman he is looking at, to find another resemblance, deeper than the photographic one. A clean sweep of all conventions, including perspective, in order to find, when looking at a person, which colors define him or her best.

Portrait of Robert Tricoire
1969, Oil on canvas
65 x 54 cm; 25.6" x 21.2"
Private collection
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

In the portrait of Robert Tricoire, the diaphanous quality of the skin and the transparency of the eyes contrast with the bottle-green background and the navy blue sweater. In the portrait of Mrs. Du Closel, Beauford’s benefactress who, in his final years, put at his disposal a studio before he was hospitalized, what strikes most is a lightness that leads almost to evanescence.

Portrait of Vassili Pikoula
1970, Oil on canvas
130 x 99 cm; 51.2" x 38.9"
Private collection
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

One of the most impressive paintings in this exhibition was a relatively large, 130 x 99 cm oil on canvas portrait of Mrs Vassili Pikoula, dated 1970. Propped in a chair, Pikoula seems to fix the viewer with the dignity of an empress. She stands out as much as she vanishes in an abstract background of great finesse and subtlety. The pattern of her dress … the drapery of a curtain behind it … everything is suggested, nothing too heavily stated.

Man in African Dress
1972, Watercolor
40.6 x 31.7 cm; 15.9" x 12.5"
Private collection
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Also reproduced in the catalog is a watercolor from 1972 depicting a young “Man in African Dress” to whom Beauford conferred the same regal quality. Seated cross-legged on his stool in a large yellow robe, his face irradiates the same pink as the light passing through the doorway. Yes, you read well, this is a young Black man - recognizable by the color of his arms and an ankle not covered by the dress - but whose face is illuminated by a pink light. And the floor is also invaded by the same flood of light. The color pink reflects the softness and tenderness with which Beauford intended to surround his model.

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Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, Columbia Global Centers | Paris, and the Wells International Foundation (WIF) brought you this exhibition of Beauford Delaney works at Reid Hall in Paris.
We're creating a documentary of the exhibition that will encourage U.S. and European museums to host it!

To contribute to the funding for this effort, click HERE.

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