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.!

We value your support!

(All or part of your gift through WIF may qualify as a charitable deductible in the U.S.)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Beauford in "Psychology and Art" - Part 1

This course will explore selected topics in the psychology of art within the context of 19th and 20th century painting (primarily painters working in Paris). Artists of particular interest include van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne, Utrillo, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Monet, Delaney, and Modigliani.

The above statements are found at the beginning of the course description for the Kentucky Institute for International Studies* course entitled "Psy 299 Topics: Psychology of Art" being held in Paris this summer.

Dr. Robert Brubaker, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University, is leading this study abroad course. This year, he is including Beauford in the syllabus for the first time. He contacted Les Amis to ask about resources and materials that he could use to enhance his students' experience.

Professor Robert Brubaker, Eastern Kentucky University
© Discover Paris!

I suggested the "Beauford Delaney's Montparnasse" commemorative walking tour to Dr. Brubaker and arranged to meet him to learn more about the course. He graciously agreed to an interview about his interest in Beauford and his reasons for including Beauford in "Psychology and Art."

During the course, Dr. Brubaker and his students discuss a number of questions/issues/beliefs about the relationship between an artist’s psychological functioning and his/her work. To bring these issues to life and to provide some context, Brubaker likes to introduce the students to several artists who were known to have struggled with psychological disorders. He looks for artists with personal stories that will engage students and help them recognize the complexity of the relationship between mental illness and creativity.

Knowing something about the artist as a whole person and not someone defined by illness enriches our understanding of his/her work. It helps begin to dispel stereotypes about people with mental illness and about artists.

Because the course is taught in Paris, Brubaker selects artists who have some connection to the city. He says that being able to show students where the artists lived and worked, their favorite hangouts, their grave sites, scenes they painted, etc., further humanizes them. Two artists he always incorporates into the class are Vincent Van Gogh and Maurice Utrillo. Others, e.g., Modigliani, Toulouse Lautrec, Gauguin, Picasso, are included to illustrate certain points.

Until recently, Brubaker had only been aware of Beauford in the most general sense from studying art history. He knew Beauford was an American artist and was familiar with a few of his works (notably Can Fire in the Park). He found that Beauford’s life story, his struggles with mental illness, his circle of friends, the aesthetic appeal of his art, his connection with Paris, and his origins in Tennessee (not far from Kentucky) made him an excellent addition to the course.

Over the past few months, Dr. Brubaker read David A. Leeming’s biography, Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, and the catalogs from two Delaney exhibits, Beauford Delaney: From NY to Paris and Beauford Delaney: The Color Yellow. He has read most of the posts on the Les Amis blog and a number of miscellaneous articles discovered online. He is adding Amazing Grace and the Les Amis blog to the bibliography for the course.

The blog led Brubaker to visit Knoxville to see the Gathering Light exhibition currently on display at the Knoxville Museum of Art prior to bringing his students to Paris. I asked him how that visit informed what he is having the students explore regarding Beauford's life and art. He responded:

The students and I explore the nature of creativity and the creative process – Do creative persons share particular personality characteristics, is creativity an inherent trait (some people have it, some don’t) or is it a skill to be learned? do creative ideas spring forth fully formed (inspired) or are they the product of experimentation and shaping and hard work?

What I found particularly interesting in the exhibition from a psychological perspective were the sketchbooks that are on display. I’m fascinated by artists’ sketchbooks because I think they often give us some insight into their thought processes. The quick sketches and notes suggest how the artist plays with ideas prior to putting brush to canvas or paper. For the same reason, the series of self-portrait studies were particularly interesting to me. I will share those observations during our class discussions.

I mentioned to Dr. Brubaker that "Psychology and Art" is a perfect example of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) education and asked him how much time he has his students spend looking at art during the course. He said they spend a great deal of time looking at images of art that accompany class presentations/lectures and they go on excursions to art museums to see works in person.

In addition, Brubaker uses images of paintings to illustrate how our brains process visual art – the neurological, perceptual, and cognitive processes that allow us to see, understand, and respond to a visual stimulus as a piece of art. When he mentioned that he had not been able to identify any works by Beauford that are on display in Paris, I organized a visit to the Galerie Intemporel so he and his students could see Beauford's art in person.

The image below shows Dr. Brubaker (far left) the students, and gallery owner Laurence Choko (far right) standing in front of Beauford's Portrait of Vassili Pikoula.

Professor Brubaker and KIIS "Psychology and Art" students at
Galerie Intemporel
© Discover Paris!

Portrait of Vasilli Pikoula
(1970) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

KIIS students at Galerie Intemporel
© Discover Paris!

To successfully complete the Psychology and Art course, students must write a final examination consisting of eight questions that Brubaker provides in advance. These questions reflect important questions studied by psychologists and others interested in art and artists. Brubaker expects students to describe various theories and points of view held by the experts and to present and evaluate the evidence supporting those positions. As an example, he cites the great interest in the question of whether the incidence of psychopathology is greater among artists and other creative people than it is in the general populations. There are published studies supporting this proposition and studies that disagree.

Brubaker says that because debates surrounding these questions often focus on criticisms of the methodology employed in the scientific studies used to explore them, there is no one "correct" answer for any of the exam questions.

At the end of our interview, Brubaker emphasized that he has only begun to study Beauford's life and work. "As we consider Delaney in the context of the psychology of art, I will be learning along with my students," he said.

Professor Brubaker admires Delaney paintings at Galerie Intemporel
© Discover Paris!

*KIIS is a consortium of colleges and universities in Kentucky and some surrounding states, including Eastern Kentucky University.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

"Bringing Delaney Home" at the Knoxville Museum of Art

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a pilot project inspired by Beauford's art and life called Bringing Beauford Delaney Home. It was conducted at West View Elementary School in Knoxville, TN.

The Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) is currently displaying the artwork created by the students who participated in that project as part of its Celebrate School Art Programs.

Hanging the students' art
Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

Information panel
Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

The information panel for the exhibition reads as follows (text reproduced with the permission of the museum):

The summer exhibition features West View Elementary students in the grade K-5. This art exhibition at KMA highlights the fundamental importance of the arts in the school curricula, an essential component to the healthy development and complete education of our young people.

Through a partnership with The Great Schools Partnership Community Schools Program, Knoxville Chapter of the Links, Inc., and the KMA, students at West View Elementary were able to spend six weeks learning about Beauford Delaney, one of Knoxville's greatest abstract painters of the 20th century.

The students studied the use of bold bright colors, and the color "yellow" one of Delaney's favorite colors. The students self-portraits are inspired by Beauford's yellow portraits.

Student self-portraits
Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

The students also studied Beauford's abstract paintings from Paris, which inspired them to create abstract collages pieced together from many other abstract paintings they created.

Student abstracts
Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

The large mixed-media piece is a collaborative painting made by all 26 students who participated in the Bringing Delaney Home project.

Collaborative student abstract
Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

The students began the project knowing little or nothing about Beauford Delaney, but are now big fans of his artworks and are willing to share their new knowledge. On the learning expedition to the KMA, the students were excited to finally see the original work created by Delaney in person.

Bringing Delaney Home will hang in KMA's Education Gallery until June 30, 2017.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Still Lifes by Beauford

The Tate Gallery defines still life painting as follows:

One of the principal genres (subject types) of Western art – essentially, the subject matter of a still life painting or sculpture is anything that does not move or is dead.

Beauford rarely painted stiil lifes. There are two that I find particularly remarkable:

Still Life with Pears
(1946) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Still Life with Eggplant & Fruit
(1949) Pastel on paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Both of these works were painted prior to Beauford's relocation to Paris. Still Life with Pears is bold and crisp, while Still Life with Eggplant & Fruit is soft and sensual.

Both are revelations of Beauford's brilliant use of color.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Beauford's Art Inspires Knoxville Elementary School Students

Information card from West View Elementary School Arts Night
Image courtesy of The Links Incorporated, Knoxville Chapter

"Bringing Beauford Delaney Home" is an educational program that is part of Gathering Light: The Beauford Delaney Project, the multifaceted community project that has taken Beauford's hometown of Knoxville by storm. It is designed to teach the children of Knoxville and Knox County about Beauford's life and work and inspire them to create their own art based on what they learn about him.

The Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA), the Knoxville chapter of The Links, Incorporated, and West View Elementary School worked together to implement the pilot program, which took place from February 2 through March 31 at the school and the museum.

Twenty-six (26) children, grades K-5, participated in the program. Members of the Knoxville, TN chapter of The Links, Incorporated volunteered to assist West View Elementary School educators at student workshops.

The program began on February 2 with a parent-children workshop, where Chief Curator Stephen Wicks of KMA presented an overview of Beauford's work and asked questions of the audience to gauge interest and comprehension. The children created woven abstract mats for the event.

Links volunteer observes as kids create art
Image courtesy of Link Sylvia Peters

Working diligently
Image courtesy of Link Sylvia Peters

On February 16, students participated in a workshop during which they studied the elements of art such as line, shading, shape, and learned how these are used to create landscapes. They also learned about abstract art, with Beauford's work serving as an example.

KMA hosted a Family Fun Day on February 16, where entry to the museum was free. The museum offered door prizes and organized art activities, face painting, and a magic show for attendees.

Additional student art workshops were held at West View Elementary on February 23 and March 2.

On March 9, students were given a KMA tour to see Beauford's work hanging in the "Changing Fortunes, Changing Scenes" section of the permanent exhibition called Higher Ground in the museum's gallery.

Children at the museum
Image courtesy of Link Sylvia Peters

Learning about Beauford's abstract Scattered Light
Image courtesy of Link Sylvia Peters

Learning about Beauford's Portrait of Delia Delaney
Image courtesy of Link Sylvia Peters

"Bringing Beauford Delaney Home" culminated on the evening of March 30, when West View Elementary hosted Arts Night. The school proudly displayed the works that the children created throughout the eight-week program.

Arts Night display wall
Image courtesy of The Links Incorporated, Knoxville Chapter

Arts Night - abstract work
Image courtesy of The Links Incorporated, Knoxville Chapter

Arts Night - abstract and figurative works
Image courtesy of The Links Incorporated, Knoxville Chapter

These works will be hung in the Children's Gallery at KMA in June 2017.

Due to the success of the pilot program, the Beauford Delaney Project Council is determined to take "Bringing Beauford Delaney Home" into additional schools as early as September 2017 and to expand the program to students in grades 6-12.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Beauford in Jules B. Farber's James Baldwin - Escape from America, Exile in Provence

Jules B. Farber's book, James Baldwin - Escape from America, Exile in Provence, is a story woven from over seventy interviews with friends, associates, and lovers of James Baldwin about the seventeen years (1970-1987) that Baldwin lived in the French provincial town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. It is MUST READ for those wanting to better understand Baldwin's thoughts, fears, actions, and works written during these last years of his life.

James Baldwin - Escape from America, Exile in Provence
Book cover

Farber begins his account by explaining how Baldwin moved into a homestead owned by an elderly spinster named Jeanne Faure. He describes how Baldwin first occupied "a basement flat in the old stables, accessible through a small, narrow passage under the kitchen" and went on to "buy" rooms in the house to provide a place to stay for his personal entourage and his myriad visitors. Baldwin and Mademoiselle Faure developed a deep friendship over the years and it was commonly known that she wished the property to go to Baldwin upon her death. In 2007, the Baldwin family lost a 20-year legal battle over ownership of the property to Mlle Faure's housekeeper/caretaker, Mme Josette Bazzini.

Farber describes Baldwin's underground apartment (the same space used as a studio by Georges Braque) as having three of Beauford's paintings on the wall. He says that two of the paintings were portraits of Baldwin

Portrait of James Baldwin
(1971) Oil on canvas
Bequest of James Baldwin to Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Image courtesy of Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries
Note: Some question whether the person depicted in this portrait is indeed Baldwin.

and that the third was a portrait of Foster White, a former lover of Baldwin.

Beauford spent a great deal of time at this place, particularly when he was in need of physical and psychological care and healing. He would stay there for weeks at a time, surrounded by Baldwin, Bernard Hassell, and frequently, Baldwin's brother, David - all people who loved him and looked out for him.

From left to right: David Baldwin, James Baldwin, and Beauford
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Sketching and painting the scenery of the area were part of his "therapy."

Creative Commons License - Dynamosquito

Village (St. Paul de Vence)
(1972) Oil on canvas
Bequest of James Baldwin to Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Image courtesy of Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries

Sadly, the land and buildings are now greatly deteriorated. The extensions of the original house have been destroyed by the current owner, a developer who has the intent to construct luxury apartments there.

House and extension wing
Image courtesy of His Place in Provence

House with wing removed
Image courtesy of His Place in Provence

An organization called His Place in Provence is working to prevent the unfortunate transformation of this centuries-old, historical site. If successful, they will preserve a part of Beauford's history and legacy alongside those of Baldwin.

In Chapter 1, Farber includes details of an interview with Richard A. Long, a dear friend of Baldwin and Beauford, in which Long described bringing Beauford to Saint-Paul-de-Vence in 1973 (the year was actually 1972). Long indicated that the only other time he returned to the town was after Baldwin's death, when he inventoried the artworks that Baldwin had bequeathed to Clark Atlanta University. Among these works were several by Beauford.

A couple of brief mentions of Beauford in Chapters 1 and 5 indicate that he was also at Saint-Paul-de-Vence in 1974 and that he was not well at that time.

Pages 130-132 in Chapter 6 are devoted to anecdotes surrounding Beauford's placement in Sainte-Anne's Hospital in Paris and the depressing effect this had on Baldwin. Coupled with the public attack on Baldwin made in Le Canard Enchaîné, a satirical French newspaper, about his care of Beauford, Baldwin's concern for Beauford's deterioration detrimentally affected his work on the novel Just Above My Head.

Two B&W photos in the central section of the book reference Beauford. One is of Baldwin sitting in his underground office beneath Beauford's portrait of him.

James Baldwin in his house in Saint-Paul-de-Vence
Creative Commons Attribution
OT Saint Paul de Vence

The other is a Max Petrus photo of Baldwin and Beauford at Sainte-Anne's Hospital.

In Chapter 11 - "Black Music: Gospel, Blues, and all that Jazz," Farber credits Beauford with exposing Baldwin to secular black music in 1940. He quotes extensively from Baldwin's introduction to The Price of the Ticket, where Baldwin talks of "walking into music" when he visited Beauford's Greenwich Village apartment for the first time. This music would influence Baldwin's ability to write and the content of his writing for the rest of his life.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Gathering Light: Knoxville Museum of Art's Beauford Delaney Exhibition Now Open

Over 250 people turned out for the opening of Gathering Light - the exhibition of the Knoxville Museum of Art's permanent collection of Beauford Delaney works last week!

Knoxville Museum of Art
© Wells International Foundation

Entrance to exhibition gallery
© Knoxville Museum of Art

Inside the exhibition gallery
© Wells International Foundation

On Wednesday, May 3, roughly 90 persons attended the invitation-only, VIP opening. Chief Curator Stephen Wicks presented his concept for the exhibition, which brilliantly links photos and sketches displayed on a centrally located table with selected paintings and works on paper displayed on the walls of the gallery.

Photos and sketchbooks on central table
© Wells International Foundation

Artwork on wall of gallery
© Wells International Foundation

I followed by presenting the story of how I came to learn about Beauford's life as an African-American expatriate in Paris and why I became passionate about his personal and artistic legacy.

The general vernissage, or opening, was held on Thursday, May 4. Once again, the museum filled with visitors who were curious and eager to see the exhibition.

Opening night attendees
© Wells International Foundation

A child observes an abstract oil painting
© Knoxville Museum of Art

Contemplating Dante Pavone as Christ
© Knoxville Museum of Art

Photo ops abounded!

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Monique Y. Wells
© Wells International Foundation

From left to right: Steve and Ann Bailey, KMA patrons
and sponsors of Gathering Light; Richard Jolly, artist
© Knoxville Museum of Art

From left to right: Wokie Wicks, KMA Chief Curator Stephen Wicks;
Douglas McCarty of MHM Architects and Interior Designers,
sponsor of Gathering Light
© Knoxville Museum of Art

On the evening of May 5, I joined several members of KMA's millennial group, Art House, to celebrate the opening. We gathered for dinner at Bistro on the Tracks - an acclaimed Knoxville dining establishment.

Dinner with Art House
© Knoxville Museum of Art

Art House's mission statement is the following:

Connecting a new generation to the Knoxville Museum of Art by providing exclusive opportunities to learn through art.

Throughout our exquisite meal, conversation was lively. Between exchanges of personal information and anecdotes, I shared stories from Beauford's biography and the Les Amis blog that centered on food.

Gathering Light will be shown at the Knoxville Museum of Art through July 23, 2017.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Beauford on Abstract Expressionist List for Exhibition that Never Came to Be

Catherine St. John, Doctor of Arts, retired Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at Berkeley College in New Jersey, and long time supporter of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, called my attention to a recently published article in Art News. It tells the story of a comprehensive exhibition of Abstract Expressionist work that never took place.

Walter Hopps, founding director of the Menil Collection in Houston, and art historian Bill Agee wanted to curate this show. Their intent was to show the works of men and women painters and sculptors that represented four decades of artistic creation (1940s-1980s) across the United States. Because Walter Hopps died in 2005, the exhibition never took place.

Dr. St. John wanted me to see the article because it presents the lists of desired artists whose works Hopps and Agee wanted to include in the exhibition. Beauford's name (misspelled) appears on Agee's list, along with the name of twp of Beauford's dearest friends, Charley Boggs and Larry Calcagno. Beauford and Boggs are included in the list of painters from the "East," while Calcagno is part of the list of painters from the "West."

Header for e-mail sent to Walter Hopps by Bill Agee
Screenshot from Art News article

Partial list mentioning Charlie Boggs and Beauford
Screenshot from Art News article

Partial list mentioning Larry Calcagno
Screenshot from Art News article

Dr. St. John indicated that references to Beauford as an Abstract Expressionist artist are not common and that his inclusion in this list is important.

Larry Calcagno, Beauford, and Charley Boggs in Venice
Photo from Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney (1998)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Beauford Delaney-James Baldwin Correspondence in James Baldwin Archive Sealed for 20 Years

It is well known that Beauford and James Baldwin had a deep and abiding friendship. What we know of that friendship comes mainly from the publication of biographies about Baldwin, writings by Baldwin, and the single biography that exists about Beauford.

James Baldwin and Beauford at the American Cultural Center
Photo: U.S. Information Service

When I learned that the Schomburg Center has acquired the Baldwin archive, I was excited! The center already holds a collection of Beauford's papers and having both archives at the same institution will make deeper scholarly investigation of the Beauford-Baldwin relationship much easier.

Or so I thought.

As I read the New York Times article that announced the acquisition, my excitement quickly faded. In Paragraph 8, writer Jennifer Schuessler reveals that "Baldwin’s correspondence with four of his closest intimates is under 20-year seal" and ten paragraphs later, she reveals that "Correspondence with Delaney is covered by the 20-year seal."

Schuessler mentions unpublished notes by Baldwin about Beauford and this text is coupled with a photo of part of a page of handwritten notes that were published as an essay in the Studio Museum of Harlem catalog for the Beauford Delaney: A Retrospective exhibition in 1978.

Detail of a page from Baldwin's essay "Notes on Beauford Delaney"
Original photo by Emon Hassan

Beauford Delaney: A Retrospective - catalog cover
1978 Studio Museum of Harlem

It is not clear whether Schuessler knew that the essay had indeed been published.

The 20-year seal also covers correspondence between Baldwin and his brother David; his friend and lover, Lucien Happersberger, and his friend Mary Painter. Painter was also a close friend of Beauford, so it is possible that some of the letters exchanged by Painter and Baldwin discuss Beauford.

To see the Schomburg Center's Web page that details the contents of the James Baldwin archive, click HERE.

To see the Schomburg Center's Web page that details all documentation concerning Beauford, click HERE.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Gathering Light: Works by Beauford Delaney from the Knoxville Museum of Art Collection

In two short weeks, I'll be winging my way to Beauford's hometown of Knoxville to participate in the opening festivities for Gathering Light, a solo exhibition of Beauford's works from the Knoxville Museum of Art's collection. The exhibition will be held from May 5 - July 23, 2017.

From the museum's Web site:

Gathering Light includes approximately 40 of Delaney’s paintings and drawings — nearly all of which have never before been on public view — that were purchased from the artist’s estate between 2014 and 2016 in what is likely the most significant art acquisition in the KMA’s history.

Delaney is widely considered greatest artist Knoxville ever produced, and one of the most important American abstract painters of the late 20th century. The portraits, landscapes, and abstractions featured in Gathering Light provide a fascinating cross-section of the artist’s stellar career and demonstrate his ability to distill scenes of everyday life into explorations of the expressive power of color. Complementing these is a selection of paintings from the artist’s estate that the KMA hopes to acquire.

Knoxville Museum of Art
© Wells International Foundation

I will speak to a select group of KMA's key stakeholders and supporters during a private event to be held on the evening of May 3 and will attend the opening reception on May 4. I'm very much looking forward to viewing so many of Beauford's previously unseen works and having the opportunity to comment on them.

I will also meet with Dr. Avice Reid, the City of Knoxville's Senior Director of Community Relations; Rev. Reneé Kesler, President and CEO of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center; members of KMA's millennial group, Art House; and members of the Knoxville chapter of The Links Incorporated. All of us will discuss various ways in which we can move the Beauford Delaney in America initiative forward.

Gathering Light will provide a taste of what Knoxville can expect when the Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition travels from Paris to KMA in 2018. The dates for the latter exhibition are August 24 - November 4, 2018.