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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Beauford Moves to New York City

Beauford moved from Boston to New York City in early November 1929. His first stop was Harlem.

Because of a scandalous incident at a rooming house, he lost his belongings - including his portfolio of paintings - within a matter of hours.

Next, he went to Union Square.

"Manhattan: Union Square (East) - 17th Street (East)." 1929.
Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History,
Local History and Genealogy,
The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library Digital Collections
(Free use)

The stock market had crashed only days earlier and Beauford witnessed the effect of the crash in the faces and movements of the people milling about the square. He spent his first night on a park bench there and his shoes were stolen while he slept. This was the inauspicious beginning to his twenty-three years in the city.

The next day, Beauford's fortunes reversed considerably. He visited a painter to whom he had been referred by a friend in Boston. This man organized a job interview for Beauford and referred him to someone who could help him find lodging. This resulted in a bellhop position at the Grand Hotel and a room at 241 W 111th Street, just north of Central Park.

"Grand Hotel, (Broadway and 31st Street)."
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs:
Photography Collection, The New York Public Library.
The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
(Free use)

He soon found additional work at Billy Pierce's Dancing School at 225 W 46th Street, near Radio City Music Hall, where he created pastel and charcoal portraits of the school's clients. The Baltimore Afro-American called Pierce's school "the largest studio for stage dancing in the world."

Ad for Billy Pierce's Dancing School

The same painter who helped Beauford find the bellhop position at the Grand Hotel suggested that he pay a visit to the Whitney Studio Galleries and meet Miss Mungo Park. This led to the offer of a slot in a four person show of "Sunday painters" at the galleries, which in turn led to a new job and a studio and living quarters on the premises.

The Whitney show was Beauford's first "big break" in New York with regard to exhibiting his work publicly.


News flash: A Georgia O'Keeffe portrait of Beauford is going to be auctioned by Christie's on November 13. Beauford met O'Keeffe during his New York years. Read the article about the Christie's sale here:


Read about O'Keeffe's portraits of Beauford here:


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