Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is supporting the completion of


the first full-length documentary about Beauford.

Join us in making this video tribute to Beauford a reality!



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.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Beauford's Reflections on Abstraction in Art

... that which they call abstract is the most realist, because what is real is not the exterior form, but the idea, the essence of things.
~Constantin Brancusi

Beauford was known for his philosophical musings. In Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, biographer David A. Leeming talks about Beauford's acquaintance with Constantin Brancusi and his agreement with Brancusi's opinion about abstraction in art (see quote above). Leeming says that Beauford had made similar statements since the 1930s, long before he met Brancusi in Paris.

Beauford expressed the following about abstraction in art in a 1970 conversation with Richard A. Long:

The abstraction, ostensibly, is simply for me the penetration of something that is more profound in many ways than rigidity of a form. A form if it breathes some, if it has some enigma to it, it is also the enigma that is the abstract, I would think.

In Amazing Grace, Leeming discusses how Beauford's abstractions and portraits were extensions of each other. He describes Beauford's portraiture as being "more about masses of color and the 'enigma' of form than about likeness." Beauford's portraits of James Baldwin (Dark Rapture) and Ella Fitzgerald are two exquisite examples of this.

Dark Rapture
(1941) Oil on canvas
33 1/2" x 27 3/8"
Private collection
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald
(1968) Oil on canvas
24" x 19.5"
Permanent collection of the SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah
Gift of Dr. Walter O. and Mrs. Linda J. Evans
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

After his breakdown, a visit to the Musée d'Art Moderne to see an exhibition of Joan Miró's work in July 1962 inspired Beauford to begin painting in earnest again. He wrote to Henry Miller of needing "to work with the problem of trying to get color into proper form and texture on canvas" so that it corresponded to "the form in our mind and life." Biographer Leeming notes that Beauford began producing the large yellow abstractions of his rue Vercingétorix period at this time.

Beauford Delaney (1901-1979)
(1963) Oil on canvas
39 1/2" x 32", signed and dated
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Image courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY

Untitled (Abstraction #7)
(1964) Oil on canvas
51 1/4" x 38 1/4", signed and dated
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Image courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Beauford in the Knoxville News-Sentinel

The Knoxville News-Sentinel, one of the principal newspapers of Beauford's hometown of Knoxville, TN, has published several articles about him throughout the years.

Knoxville News-Sentinel - current masthead

The most recent one appeared in the arts section of the paper last July: A movement is underway to recognize artist Beauford Delaney in his hometown of Knoxville

Steve Cotham of the East Tennessee History Center kindly sent me copies of several older articles that the paper published about Beauford. Dating from 1935 to 1978, they report on his life in New York, art exhibitions that he participated in, his visits home, and his hospitalization in Paris. Here are some of the headlines:

Article published 8 February 1942

"Knoxville Negro Artist Has Successful Exhibit" was written by Miss Della Yoe. Yoe refers to Beauford as being a "Negro artist formerly of Knoxville," and spells his name "Beuford." She mentions his 1941 exhibition in Washington Square in Spring 1941, acknowledging its success, and notes that it was reviewed in The News-Sentinel. Much of the article consists of an extensive quote from a Don Freeman essay about Beauford.

Article published 1 January 1970

"Knoxvillian Back From 16-Year Visit" indicates that Beauford (spelled "Buford" in the article) "went to Paris intending to visit three weeks. Now, 16 years later, he has finally interrupted a successful art career in France to return for a visit in Knoxville." The unnamed writer mentions that Beauford stayed with his brother Samuel at 1935 Dandridge Avenue and that his intent was to "do some painting and just visit" during his trip. He states that many of Beauford's portraits hung in French homes and that one of his paintings "hangs in the Lausanne Gallery in Switzerland."

Article published 9 August 1976

"Paris Artists Aim To Free Ex-Knox Painter, 73, and Send Him Home" contains several quotes from Beauford's friend, Jean-Loup Msika. Writer William Steif refers to the efforts of Msika and several other artists to get Beauford released from Sainte-Anne's Hospital and establish a private residence for him where he could paint and receive nursing care. It says that Beauford suffered from "hardening of the arteries," which made him forgetful and indicates that James Baldwin believed Beauford would benefit from going back to the southern United States.

Baldwin apparently did not know that Beauford had family remaining in Knoxville - a companion article entitled "Delaney Has Brother and Niece in Knoxville" talks about Samuel Delaney, his wife, and their daughter Imogene, who lived at 1935 Dandridge Avenue. This is the address of the home that the Beck Cultural Exchange Center in Knoxville has purchased and plans to restore.

The East Tennessee History Center hopes to become the permanent home of the Beauford Delaney archives.

East Tennessee History Center
© Wells International Foundation