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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Historical Marker Honors Beauford and Joseph Delaney in Knoxville

Ever since the "Knoxville Eleven" came to Paris for the Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition in 2016 and saw the plaques that honor Beauford at two locations in Montparnasse, they have been on a mission to inspire the City of Knoxville to honor its native son in a similar fashion.

They have succeeded!

"Knoxville Eleven" on the Beauford Delaney
Commemorative Walking Tour in Paris
(2016) © Discover Paris!

In 2017, the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection at the East Tennessee Historical Center submitted a proposal to the State of Tennessee requesting the marker. The request was approved during the fall and work began on the marker's construction. Once completed, it was installed on Summit Hill Drive close to the location of the Delaney homestead during the month of August 2018.

On Thursday, September 13, 2018, the 114th anniversary of Joseph Delaney's birth, the double-sided marker was unveiled.

The text for Beauford's side of the marker reads as follows:

1901 – 1979

Beauford Delaney is considered one of the
greatest abstract painters of the 20th century.
Battling poverty, racial prejudice and mental
illness, he achieved acclaim for his expressive
portraits, cityscapes and abstractions.
An African American artist, Beauford was one
of 10 children born to the Rev. John Samuel
and Delia Elizabeth Johnson Delaney at
815 East Vine Avenue near this site. He spent
most of his life in New York City and Paris, France,
forming lifelong friendships with writers James Baldwin,
Henry Miller, and other luminaries. Beauford Delaney
is buried in Cimetière Parisien de Thiais.

Beauford Delaney marker
Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

The text for Joseph's side reads as follows:

1904 – 1991

Born near this site, Joseph Delaney, an African American
artist like his older brother Beauford, studied under
local artist Lloyd Branson. In 1930, Joseph began his
studies in New York at the Art Students League. He spent
the next 56 years painting portraits and scenes of urban
life in lower Manhattan. In 1986, he returned to Knoxville
and served as artist-in-residence at University of Tennessee
until his death in 1991. His works are in the collection of
the Smithsonian American Art Museum and other major museums.
Joseph Delaney is buried in Knoxville's Greenwood Cemetery.

Joseph Delaney marker
Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

Speakers at the dedication ceremony included Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, Knoxville Museum of Art trustee Sylvia Peters of the Gathering Light Delaney Project, and Reverend Renee Kesler of the Beck Cultural Center.

Unveiling ceremony for Beauford and Joseph Delaney marker
Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

The Knoxville Law Enforcement Credit Union at 501 E Summit Hill Dr. offered light refreshments in the lobby after the dedication.

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