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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jean-Loup Msika's Friendship with Beauford - Part 2

Painter/sculptor/architect Jean-Loup Msika met Beauford for the first time at La Coupole. It was during the late 1960s, when Msika was working as an assistant for Hungarian-born sculptor/painter Anton Prinner (née Anna Prinner).

After a day's work, Msika and Prinner would make their way from Prinner's studio on rue Pernety to the famous Montparnasse café to have a drink. Prinner had a regular table at the entrance and ate a hamburger every evening while "holding court" with several artists. Beauford would sometimes attend these gatherings.


Msika remembers La Coupole as being a place where you were expected to dine and that it was fairly costly. For that reason, he would often go to the Select for a drink. He said he frequently saw Beauford at the Select.

Having often heard people say that Beauford's paintings were marvelous, Msika and another painter friend, Loulou Taÿeb, were thrilled when Beauford invited them to visit his studio on rue Vercingétorix.  They happily accepted his invitation.

Msika remembers that Beauford's studio was located up several flights of stairs (he believes there were four of them) and that everything inside was covered with white cloth. He said Beauford painted in the main room of the studio and described the studio as being full of light:

Beauford was about LIGHT. It was a spiritual thing about light being a symbol of purity and elevation - spiritual elevation.

He and Taÿeb were amazed by Beauford's work, particularly the portrait of Marian Anderson and other portraits of his friends.

Subsequently, Msika and Beauford would cross paths on the streets of Montparnasse in the evenings. He said Beauford was often on his way to meet friends and he felt that Beauford was lonely at his studio.

Beauford at his rue Vercingétorix studio
Screenshot from Henry Miller vu par ses amis

At this time, Msika, his wife, Albine (who is also a sculptor and painter), and their daughter lived on rue de la Bidassoa in the 20th arrondissement. Beauford visited them there and they would read poetry together and cook pasta "al' dente." Msika didn't believe that Beauford ate very well at home - he remembers seeing Beauford consuming only bananas, apples, chocolate, bread, and milk at his studio. He said Beauford was always grateful when he was invited out to dinner.

During one visit to the rue Vercingétorix studio, Msika remembers seeing a stack of 78 rpm records made by Henry Miller. Miller had offered them to Beauford - Msika described them as being "marvelous recordings of Miller's voice, reading his own writings, poems, stories, etc..."

Beauford told Msika that he had never heard the recordings before, so Msika purchased a phonograph for Beauford. He and Beauford listened to a few of the recordings together and Beauford was pleased. On his next visit to the studio, Msika observed that the phonograph had "disappeared under white linen."

In 1971, Beauford invited Msika to purchase a 25 F (25 figure) canvas so he could paint Msika's portrait. Msika purchased the canvas at an art supply store near or on rue Vercingétorix. He sat for the portrait twice at Beauford's studio and then let Beauford work on it for a while.

When it was completed, Msika found it to be a fine work and asked whether he could purchase it. Beauford agreed. Msika owns the portrait to this day.

Jean-Loup Msika and his portrait
Portrait: © Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Image: © Discover Paris!

Portrait of Jean-Loup Msika (detail)
(1971) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Image courtesy of Jean-Loup Msika

Msika explained that Beauford was a brilliant colorist and said that only a master could succeed in using a combination of acid greens, blues, and purples in a single work. He compared Beauford's genius to that of Matisse and Bonnard, and mentioned that Beauford loved the work of Bonnard.

Loulou Taÿeb was just as impressed with Beauford's work as Msika. He painted a portrait of Beauford for which he used a textured yellow background that Msika described as "Beauford's yellow." Msika says Taÿeb has depicted Beauford in front of one of Beauford's own paintings.

This portrait was part of an exhibition called Les Lumineux - the people who radiate light. It is one of two works that Msika purchased.

Loulou Taÿeb
Portrait of Beauford Delaney
(Undated) Oil on canvas
Portrait: © Loulou Taÿeb
Image: © Discover Paris!

Beauford gave Msika confidence as an artist, making him understand that there was more to art than technique. He told Msika that "art is difficult" but that if it comes from the heart, you can succeed. (See Jean-Loup Msika at work at a 1985 art installation here.)

I asked Msika about his best memories of Beauford. He replied that Beauford had a great sense of humor and would turn everything into a good laugh. He said Beauford had a "metaphysical laugh."

To sum it all up, he said that his favorite memories of Beauford are:
- his studio
- his smile
- his marvelous paintings.

Jean-Loup Msika (second from left) and Loulou Taÿeb
(third from left) at
Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition
© Discover Paris!

1 comment:

Ilmari said...

I just readed the book.
It's fine but too much Baldwin.
So, it was interesting to have mr Msika version
Of last years of Delaney.

It's wonderful to have this site
Les amis de B.D.
Merci!