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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Beauford at the American Cultural Center's Paris Celebration of Henry Miller

Henry Miller and Beauford met for the first time in New York during the early 1940s. Miller visited Beauford's Greene Street studio in the fall of 1943 and Beauford painting a stunning portrait of him in 1944.

Beauford showed the painting during a group exhibition in New York in 1945 and had it shipped to Miller's home in Big Sur in 1946. An image of the portrait was included in a 1971 Playboy article about Miller.

Photo of Henry Miller at his home in Big Sur
standing in front of Beauford's portrait of him
Photo from Beauford Delaney archives
reproduced by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Image @Wells International Foundation

Beauford and Miller developed a deep and lifelong friendship and Beauford was one of the persons Miller sought out whenever he visited Paris.

So it is perhaps not surprising that when the American Cultural Center in Paris organized a birthday celebration for Miller in January 1972, Beauford would be invited to participate in the festivities.

Don Foresta was the director of the American Cultural Center, AKA "The Dragon Center," at the time. I met him in Paris and he shared the story of this event for publication in the blog.

Foresta took on the directorship of the Center in 1971 as a long-time diplomat of the U.S. Foreign Service. Shortly thereafter, he was approached by Robert Snyder, Miller's son-in-law, about screening Snyder's 1969 documentary entitled "The Henry Miller Odyssey." Inspired by Snyder's request, Foresta organized a birthday celebration for Miller that took place at the Center in January 1972. (Miller was born on December 26, 1891.)

Snyder told Foresta about Beauford and Foresta met Beauford shortly thereafter. He visited Beauford at the rue Vercingétorix studio and found him to be quite serious and not very talkative.

Foresta went on to invite four artists who knew Miller and whose work Miller appreciated to contribute works to be shown at the week-long event: Beauford, Brassaï (Gyula Halász), Michonze, and Hans Reichel. Their exhibition was called Les Amis Parisiens de Henry Miller.

The Center published a catalog of sorts, which included a printed list of the seven works that Beauford contributed to the show and a full-page color reproduction of Beauford's portrait of Miller that is signed by Beauford in blue ink at the bottom margin of the page.

Portrait of Henry Miller
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Image (detail) from Abe Books Web site

Miller's favorite music was played on piano and French translations of some of his texts were read.

While the description of the event in Beauford'd biography, Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, indicates that Miller attended the event, Foresta says that Miller could not travel to Paris to celebrate his birthday. Both sources state that Miller shipped Beauford's portrait to Paris and that it served as the centerpiece of the art exhibition.

Beauford wrote a tribute to Miller for his 80th birthday, which I published previously on the Les Amis blog. Read it HERE.

"Henry Miller 80," the document that the American Cultural Center printed for the event, is a collector's item. It is available for purchase at Abe Books and at Amazon.com.

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