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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Parisian Café Culture and Beauford Delaney

By Maija Brennan

Maija Brennan is the Wells International Foundation's 2019 summer intern. A rising senior at Smith College, she majors in French and art history with a concentration in museum studies. Her eight-week internship focuses on researching the life and art of painter Beauford Delaney and creating an online exhibition of a selection of his works.

Induction into the café scene in Paris has been a rite of passage for artists and intellectuals from around the world for over two centuries. A hub for heated discourse, the exchange of new ideas, and a place to build up your network of connections, cafés have been prominent pillars in French society since before the French Revolution.

Café Procope in 1743
Image in public domain

Coffee arrived in Western countries in the 17th century as a result of political and imperial expeditions. Consuming coffee was, at first, reserved for the dominant social classes. During the age of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, innovative ideas surrounding the political and social spheres in France were exchanged amongst revolutionaries over coffee and alcohol in salons littéraires. By 1909, Paris alone housed 30,000 cafés.

Such “micro-societies” remained at the forefront of fostering new schools of thought in the arts and politics throughout the twentieth century. Expats from other countries began to understand the importance of cafés in finding a community, from German avant-garde artists before World War I to the “Lost Generation” of the 1920s.

Members of the Lost Generation
The Murphys, Pauline Pfeiffer, and the Hemingways
Image in public domain

Beauford Delaney, an African-American Abstract Expressionist painter who traded his artistic life in New York for Paris in 1953, found solace and solidarity in the Parisian cafés he frequented until his death in 1979. It was during his first night in Paris, hungry and restless, that Beauford walked into the Dôme Café on the corner of rue Delambre and boulevard du Montparnasse, returning often after that point. This and other Parisian cafés in Montparnasse and Saint-Germain-des-Près became crucial to Beauford’s well-being and happiness throughout the 26 years he lived in the city.

As an African-American gay man who struggled intensely with his mental and emotional health, the various social circles that existed within the cafés dispersed throughout Paris offered a refuge for fraternity, stimulating conversation, and oftentimes a discounted or free meal when he couldn’t afford one himself as a impoverished painter. The community provided by Parisian café culture for artists and writers of all persuasions, and for African-American artists and writers in particular, was central to Beauford Delaney’s life and the birthplace for many valued relationships he cultivated during his time in France.

Coffee cup and sugar cube
Mickael Favier
Creative Commons License

The strong historical precedent for African-American presence in Paris cafés began in the aftermath of the First World War, when expats flocked to Montmartre for conversations with like-minded individuals. Tyler Stovall described this black experience in Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light, stating that by 1919, musical opportunities for black jazz musicians were drying up in the US due to the wartime industrial boom coming to an end. Jazz was becoming wildly popular in France and in Paris, and for many African Americans who relocated, it was a quick way to gain fame and fortune. Montmartre in the 1920s was seen as Harlem transplanted, the jazz clubs being where black and white people alike went for a good time.

Places such as Le Grand Duc and Chez Florence, clubs owned by African Americans, became notorious not only amongst those in Montmartre, but other circles as well; Scott Fitzgerald and other members of the Lost Generation flocked to the area from Montparnasse, knowing it was where the best parties were occurring. Fitzgerald loved Ada Louise Smith (“Bricktop”), an African-American singer, so much that he included her in one of his fictional pieces and bragged about “discovering” her before his other friends.

Ada "Bricktop" Smith
1934 Carl Van Vechten
Image in public domain

The Flea Pit, a café in Montmartre, became a staple for African-American musicians. They would meet there at any point in the day to share a drink and each other’s company.

Quote about the Flea Pit
from Becoming American in Paris
Brooke L. Blower

While this era was not the first for African Americans in Paris or for café culture, it was a time where black creatives could thrive in spaces that were typically dominated by their white peers.

The black community that developed in Paris during the 20s was virtually destroyed as a result of the Depression and the Second World War, and many African Americans recrossed the Atlantic during the 1930s. The community slowly rebuilt itself in the 40s and 50s, this time across the Seine in Montparnasse and Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Herbert Gentry, an African-American painter who sailed to France with Beauford on the SS Liberté, said it best when he said that “it was the Americans who really made Montparnasse.”

Herb Gentry in Paris
c. 1949
Image courtesy of Mary Anne Rose

The artistic community on the Left Bank thrived after World War II. African-American artists and writers began holding court at many of the cafés the white expats and intellectuals frequented during the same period: the Closerie de Lilas, the Coupole, and Café de Flore. Café Tournon and Café Monaco, however, were spots known for its African-American following. Richard Wright and James Baldwin were among those who could be seen every day engrossed in conversation nursing a cup of coffee (or something stronger), and not getting as much writing or work done as they had anticipated. Paris Noir cites the journal of Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, a black South Carolina native who moved to Paris in 1958. She writes that two hours after landing, a “brother from Senegal” invited her to have coffee at Café Dupont in the 15th arrondissement. She was in awe at finding a “gang” so quickly after arriving.

Beauford Delaney was one of those Americans that made Montparnasse the lively, culturally rich environment that it was known for. The Dôme Café, the place he stumbled upon hours after arriving in Paris, became one of his usual haunts. He loved the Dôme for its affordable prices at the time, yet was often invited to the Coupole (the most expensive of the Montparnasse cafés at the time) as well by his European artist friends. Along with the Dôme and the Coupole, he could be spotted at Café de Flore and Café Tournon, popular spots for friends in his circle. He would spend hours at a table with them, doling out pieces of advice and sharing stories of his upbringing in Tennessee.

Beauford wrote on his adoration for Parisian café culture shortly after moving:

“Some of the cafés never closed. I had never seen such life and could not suppress an eagerness to join into this rhythm. . . . Nights and days we would come together at mealtimes and swap our various experiences or relate how this activity in life and art were fused, what this group or that group thought of this or that school of painting, writing, music.”

Through the relationships formed in Paris cafés, Beauford was being intellectually stimulated like never before, generating new ideas and beliefs surrounding art and the kind of work he wanted to produce. Even in his later years, when his delusions and paranoia were getting the better of him, he would walk into his favorite cafés confused and with little to no money. Patrons and diners alike loved Beauford though; he was a local café celebrity known for his sweet demeanor and constant words of wisdom. Someone would always be there to help him pay for a meal and to guide him home.

Café Floor
Creative Commons License

Beauford sailed to France never intending to stay longer than a few months. He fell into the rhythm of Montparnasse, teeming with creative and intellectual energy, and lived out the remaining 26 years of his life there. The café culture for artists in Paris is notorious throughout the globe, and Beauford Delaney is a longstanding symbol of the community and camaraderie synonymous with it.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Beauford Delaney and the Mysterious Odalisque

By Maija Brennan

Maija Brennan is the Wells International Foundation's 2019 summer intern. A rising senior at Smith College, she majors in French and art history with a concentration in museum studies. Her eight-week internship focuses on researching the life and art of painter Beauford Delaney and creating an online exhibition of a selection of his works.

As a way to capture likeness or a moment in time, or to represent some key element regarding their identity and the art they create, self-portraits of visual artists date back hundreds of years. Beauford Delaney is known for his elegant and thoughtful portraits of others; he memorialized his friends and family through the loving nature in which he put paint down on the canvas. Alongside those around him, he represented his own face dozens of times throughout his career. His self-portraits are reflections of how he perceived himself outwardly and inwardly.

Self-Portrait with Odalisque, a painting completed in 1943, is a thought-provoking work of art in terms of the subject matter and the intentions behind it. The oil painting depicts Beauford seated on a stool in the lower right hand corner, a guitar in his lap. To his right, a few feet away, is a topless black woman lounging on a mattress. They are surrounded by trees and foliage, a body of water behind them. The portrait is done in a painterly manner - the brush strokes are visible and free, the colors lively and bright.

Untitled (Self-Portrait with Odalisque)
(c. 1943) Oil on panel
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Image courtesy of the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

The original definition of an “odalisque” is a chambermaid in a Turkish seraglio. Seraglios were the living quarters of the women in Turkish households, and odalisques served the women and mistresses of the home. Beginning in the 19th century, many artists from Western civilizations began traveling to countries where odalisques lived - places dubbed “oriental”: The Middle East, Asia, and North Africa. Because of European political interests in “The Orient,” artists and writers from countries such as France and Great Britain became fascinated with the culture and aesthetics of Eastern civilizations that were worlds away from what they knew as familiar. Some of the most notorious and celebrated works by Eugène Delacroix and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, two French 19th-century painters, were “oriental” scenes: Turkish baths, village scenes, and richly decorated interior spaces.

Odalisques became frequent subjects in such paintings, and the definition of their social standing and occupation took on new meanings through a Western lens as European artists depicted them as concubines or consorts to the wealthy men with whom they resided. From Ingres, to Picasso and Matisse later in the 20th century, it became common practice to represent these women as sultry and erotic, more often than not lounging on their sides naked and gazing at the viewer. Depictions of “oriental” scenes and people fascinated Western artists and viewers; the “exotic nature” of different ways of life allowed Europeans to both admire the aesthetics of certain things and judge practices that did not correspond with their Western values and beliefs.

Within the context of odalisques in the canon of art history, it is curious that Beauford would decide to depict such a figure in one of his paintings, let alone a self-portrait. During the 1940s, he was in New York City, in the midst of his Greene Street era, and animated works of art representing the scenes and objects he saw in his everyday life were often experiments in abstraction and use of color. It was during this time that Beauford was becoming increasingly interested in modern artists and the techniques they used, both the United States and abroad. A big fan of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, it is possible that he studied and admired their works with odalisques. Perhaps he painted the woman in his self-portrait to create an image of himself as a global modernist, one knowledgeable in the trend of “Orientalism” that had been prominent at the turn of the century.

Self-portraits are oftentimes explorations of new techniques for artists, a way to navigate new methods of creating art. Self-Portrait with Odalisque is more figurative and narrative than the abstract cityscapes and portraits Beauford was completing at the time, so he could have been experimenting with a new method of storytelling in his paintings.

As a gay man wary of sexual promiscuity and eroticism, it is unusual that Beauford would choose to depict a woman that was a symbol for such traits in Western art history. Before completing Dark Rapture (1941), his first portrait of James Baldwin, the girlfriend of Emile Capouya (the man who introduced Baldwin and Beauford) insisted that he paint a nude portrait of her. Beauford was always shy in the figure drawing classes he took at the Art Students’ League with regard to nude portraits and was relieved to know it was against the rules for black artists to be present when there was a white model. The presence of the odalisque, who is black, may be a nod to his painting experience with Emile’s girlfriend, or to the racist rules that were in place in artistic organizations at the time.

Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass)
Edouard Manet
(1863) Oil on Canvas
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
Google Art Project - Image in Public Domain

The immediate comparison that comes to mind when viewing Self-Portrait with Odalisque is its similarities with Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863), the ground-breaking painting by Edouard Manet. Producing an outcry from the Paris Salon for the distorted use of perspective and the “pornographic” scene of two business men with scantily-clad women, this painting became infamous in Manet’s time. Certain parallels between Beauford’s self-portrait and Manet’s scene are striking. Beauford’s disengagement with the woman is reminiscent of the dynamics among the figures of Le déjeuner sur l’herbe - the two business men seem to be oblivious of the two naked women accompanying them on the picnic. The setting of Manet’s painting, a forest with a body of water in the distance, appears in Beauford’s self-portrait as well.

Yet another compelling aspect to Beauford’s work of art is the space he and the woman are occupying. Is this an allusion to Manet, or did he have a specific location in mind, perhaps a special place from Knoxville or New York?

Beauford did not create art in a vacuum. He was entrenched in the political, social and artistic implications of the United States and Europe of the time, and Self-Portrait with Odalisque reflects many aspects of this reality. The painting is intriguing in that it raises more questions than answers when examined closely. A gorgeous exploration of color and painterly brushstrokes, it is peculiar in the context of his other works. Whether a way to put himself in the shoes of the modernist icons before him, or an exercise in painting the elusive nude female figure, the inclusion of the odalisque in this self-portrait is a fascinating choice with no clear rationale.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Capturing the Shock of Life

In Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, biographer David Leeming says that in June 1958, Beauford began experimenting with the use of color to convey his inner life, moving toward "a more expressionist use of painting to represent the inner turmoil..." He quotes a letter dated June 24, 1958 in which Beauford said that the "constant gray here creates a marvelous setting in the mind for color" and another letter dated August 22, 1958 in which he said that it is "difficult to capture the shock of life - it's a thing of magic and not technique..."

Today I'm sharing images of some of Beauford's abstracts from 1958 that seem representative of this state of mind.

Untitled (Green Drip Abstraction)
(1958) Gouache on wove paper
Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Untitled (Yellow Abstraction)
(c. 1958-1959) Oil on paper, laid down on canvas
Image courtesy of Aaron Galleries
© Estate of Beauford Delaney,
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Untitled (Abstract composition)
(1958) Oil on wove paper
Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Clamart Red
(1958) Oil on canvas
On loan from a private collection
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Even during this period, Beauford did not abandon his search for "inner light" through the creations of predominantly yellow paintings such as the one represented below.


(c.1958) Oil on canvas
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, June 22, 2019

Beauford and the Flapper Girl

by Maija Brennan

Maija Brennan is the Wells International Foundation's 2019 summer intern. A rising senior at Smith College, she majors in French and art history with a concentration in museum studies. Her eight-week internship focuses on researching the life and art of painter Beauford Delaney and creating an online exhibition of a selection of his works.

Beauford Delaney’s numerous and vastly diverse portraits were not only a way to capture the outer and inner vision of the subject, but also a means for him to express personal thoughts and emotions. During the first formative years of his new life in New York City, which began in 1929, he earned income by drawing portraits of the dancers at Billy Pierce’s Dancing School and the high society women who came through the establishment. These pencil and charcoal drawings reflect the classical training he received during his Boston years, when he learned how to realistically render facial features.

Charcoal of a Black Woman (1929)
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Charcoal of a Black Woman (Flapper Girl) from 1929 is representative of this period in Beauford’s life. This drawing is a profile of a girl adorned in a cloche hat, the headpiece symbolic of flappers from the decade. The term “flapper” was invented during the 1920s to describe a new wave of Western society women who were defying the societal norms and behavior of the era. Flapper girls were characterized by their short dresses and skirts (a departure from the more modest women’s fashion of the 19th century), their short bobbed hair, and their love of jazz music and dancing. Seen as more flamboyant and promiscuous than what was acceptable for women in the past, flappers represented a movement of women taking control of their own autonomy and sexuality.

Flapper Dresses by Lidiqnati
Gold Yellow Dress
FANDOM Community CC-BY-SA license

When we think of depictions of flapper girls today, even in 2019, our minds oftentimes follow this narrative. John Held, a well-known cartoonist during the 1920s, popularized the image that we associate them with in the 21st century: brazen and free-spirited girls dancing with and kissing men. With this in mind, Beauford’s portrait of a flapper girl becomes a thought-provoking one, as its technique and depiction contrast starkly with other illustrations of these women that were being produced at the time.

Delia Delaney's photo of Beauford
Fair use claim

This photograph of a young Beauford Delaney, which belonged to his mother, Delia, creates an interesting juxtaposition with the above portrait. Even at first glance, the physical similarities between Beauford’s profile and those of the flapper girl are apparent. There is no photographic evidence of the woman in the charcoal drawing to compare with this artistic portrayal, but her prominent nose and slightly protruding upper lip bear a striking resemblance to Beauford’s features in Delia’s photograph. One can imagine that he used his own facial profile as a guide for the portrait.

Beauford’s portraits of women are far fewer in number than the ones of men, and while there is no clear reason for why this is, Charcoal of a Black Woman (Flapper girl) provides a platform for an analysis of his sentiments or wariness regarding modern women of his time. In Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, David Leeming writes that Beauford was often concerned or “offended” by his brother’s “excessive interest in women,” believing it would “drain his natural talent.” The opposing sexualities between Beauford and Joseph proved to be a point of contention, as Joe, in the same manner in which his brother didn’t trust women, did not want to associate with Beauford’s queer companions.

Eloise Johnson wrote an article on the concept of the “femme fatale” titled “Out of the Ashes: Cultural Identity and Marginalization in the Art of Beauford Delaney” for Notes in the History of Art. In it, she notes that the 19th century’s notion of promiscuous women, or “femme fatales,” was that they were capable of eroding a man’s natural and creative talents through their allure. It is possible that Beauford was wary of such women, the ones he saw in Joe’s life and in his daily excursions around New York City. Flapper girls were the “femme fatales” of the 1920s, and his portrait of this one may represent a desire to “mute” certain qualities associated with the flapper girl stereotype. Her cloche hat is visible, but that is all the information readable to discern her as a flapper. Her facial features are rather masculine, as noted in the comparison with Delia Delaney’s photograph. She is visible only from the neck up; her fashion choice is not rendered in the illustration. The bright colors Beauford became renowned for in later years were not part of his visual vocabulary at this point in time, yet it is interesting to note that he made the decision to portray this flapper girl in black charcoal, rather than pastels. Such a choice in medium creates more of a somber effect, not what is typically imagined when thinking of the vivacious colors associated with flappers of the 20s. His subject appears immersed in thought, engaged in a moment of stillness from a life of jiving and smoking in jazz clubs.

Beauford’s portrait of a flapper girl from 1929 is a fascinating juxtaposition to the culture and media representations of flappers from the era. Whether a subtle indicator of Beauford’s own sentiments revolving flapper girls, or an attempt to subvert the narrative often associated with them, Charcoal of a Black Woman (Flapper Girl) is meaningful nonetheless in the chronology of his life as an artist and portraitist.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Two Beauford Delaney Works Sold at Separate Auctions in Paris

Beauford's work is appearing more and more frequently in sales at Paris auction houses. On June 12, two of his works were sold at auction - each by a different establishment.

Both works were painted in 1963, the year during which Beauford participated in group shows at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles at the Musée d'Art Moderne and the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne, Switzerland. Biographer David Leeming indicates that Beauford wrote to Henry Miller in July 1963, saying that he was "trying to merge color and form into the essences of things felt and remembered."

ADER Nordmann listed Composition, a stunning red and yellow abstract, at its Post War and Contemporary Art sale.

(1963) Oil on canvas
Signed and dated, rear
41 x 33 cm; 16.14 x 12.99 in
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

This painting belonged to Hart Leroy Bibbs, a long-term Paris expatriate who made a name for himself in literature and the visual arts as a poet, actor, painter, sculptor, and photographer.

The estimated sale price for Composition was 10,000€ to 15,000€. It sold for 27,000€ (hammer price) plus an additional 28% for buyer's fees, bringing the total purchase price to 34,560€.

Millon proposed a luminous gouache from a private collection in its Post War & Contemporary Art sale, which began 30 minutes after the ADER sale.

(1963) Gouache on paper
Signed and dated, bottom left
32.5 x 50.3 cm; 12.79 x 19.8 in
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Its estimated price was 6,000€ to 8,000€. It sold for 7,805€, including a 30% buyer's fee.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Beauford Coming to the Nantes Musée d'Arts

On June 7-8, 2019, NYU's Grey Art Gallery is hosting a colloquium in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition entitled Americans in Paris: Artists in the City of Light, 1946-1968, which will be shown at the gallery from September 10 to December 5, 2020 and at the Nantes Musée d'arts from February to May 2021.

Musée d'Arts de Nantes
Creative Commons License BY-SA 3.0

Comprising some 120 works by approximately 20 artists, Americans in Paris will be the first major museum exhibition to feature American artists working in Paris after the Second World War and their influence on contemporary art movements. Co-curators Lynn Gumpert and Debra Bricker Balken plan to include works by Beauford in the show.

The colloquium consists of short talks and informal discussions that address topics including visual arts, literature, and jazz. Among the presentations listed on the agenda, two are directly relevant to Beauford: Valerie Mercer of the Detroit Institute of Arts is speaking on "African-American Artists in Postwar Paris" and Nicholas Boggs of Nicholas Boggs of NYU's English department is speaking on "James Baldwin and Beauford Delaney."

A third presentation is indirectly relevant to Beauford: Natalie Adamson of the University of St. Andrews is speaking on "Sam Francis and Paris in the 1950s." Francis strongly influenced Beauford's first experiments in French abstraction and the two artists' works were displayed in at least two group exhibitions in Paris.

Invitation card for 1973 exhibit at Galerie Darthea Speyer
Courtesy of Galerie Darthea Speyer

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Cannes Film Festival Screening a Success

A major milestone in the creation of Beauford Delaney: So Splendid a Journey* was passed on May 21 when the trailer for the documentary was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. It was shown at the Grey d’Albion Hotel, one of the main screening locations for the Cannes Film Market.

Announcement for screening
Image courtesy of 2 Bulls on the Hill Productions

Producer Zachary Miller of 2 Bulls on the Hill Productions gave presentations and hosted Q&A sessions for two back-to-back showings of the trailer. Two different audiences viewed the trailer, with the first audience leaving the screening room to make way for the second group of viewers. Audience members included representatives of several companies interested in distributing the film once it is completed.

The trailer was well received, and numerous questions were posed after both screenings.

During the festival, a major grant / funding organization that could contribute to the completion of the film requested a meeting with Miller. The result of this encounter, which took place during an event held at Miller's villa in Cannes, was the scheduling of a follow-up meeting to be held in NYC in the coming weeks.

Producer Zachary Miller (center) at Cannes villa celebration
Image courtesy of 2 Bulls on the Hill Productions

The next step in the process for completing So Splendid a Journey is conducting research for information that can support narration to be included in the film. This will take place at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York. The Beauford Delaney archive there contains correspondence with colleagues, friends, gallery owners, and family members, as well as printed material documenting Beauford's life in Paris.

Raising funds for completing the full-length documentary remains a priority. An active GoFundMe campaign provides a platform for donations in support of the $20,000 budget for the production. Funds will be used for archival images, music, sound design, editing and other items mentioned in the itemized budget found on the GoFundMe page.

*Beauford Delaney: So Splendid a Journey will be the first full-length documentary about Beauford.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Amazing Grace is Yellow - A Play

Beauford is in the air!

An increasing number of projects and programs on both sides of the Atlantic are serving to honor him and extend his legacy. These include the Gathering Light project in Knoxville, Tennessee and the Classes Duo program that connects elementary school students in Paris, France and Knoxville through Beauford’s life and art.

The latest project to emerge in France is Amazing Grace is Yellow – the life of Beauford Delaney, painter. This play, written by Silver Wainhouse, will bring Beauford’s life to the stage in three acts that follow him from Knoxville to Paris.

Background - Detail from Untitled
(circa 1960) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

An excerpt from the play’s introduction reads as follows:
Amazing Grace is Yellow was inspired when, during a conversation with Dr. Monique Wells about the life of Beauford Delaney, I said that his life should be presented in a play. She replied, “Why don’t you write it?” This play is the result of my having undertaken her challenge. Beauford Delaney is a beautiful haunt prodding all who take time to explore his richness, complexities, and beauty to make known his contribution to art.
Not surprisingly, the main characters in the play include James Baldwin

Collage of Portraits of James Baldwin by Beauford Delaney
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
Individual images reproduced
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

and Beauford’s mother, Delia.

Delia Delaney
(1933) Pastel on paper
Knoxville Museum of Art
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Eleven additional characters, fictional and real, named and unnamed, round out the cast.

In preparation for a full stage production, a reading of Amazing Grace is Yellow has been scheduled at Columbia Global Centers | Paris, Reid Hall, on October 16, 2019. Casting for the play is currently underway.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Beauford and "The Rhythm of New York"

In the book entitled Making Race: Modernism and “Racial Art” in America, author Jacqueline Francis devotes roughly two pages of text to Beauford's work from the early New York years in her chapter on "Type/Face/Mask: Racial Portraiture." She cites a quote that Beauford gave to the New York Telegraph in a 1930 interview:

"I never drew a decent thing until I felt the rhythm of New York. New York has a rhythm as distinct as the beating of a human heart. And I'm trying to put it on canvas..."

Today I'm sharing images of a few of the paintings Beauford created in the years subsequent to this interview to capture the landscape of New York.

Greene Street
(1940) Oil on canvas
Image by André Moran from the Artsmia Web site
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Greenwich Village
(1945) Oil on canvas
Image by Manu Sasoonian, from Amazing Grace
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Exchange Place
(1943) Oil on panel
Image Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York , NY
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Untitled (Washington Square Park)
(1952) Oil on canvas
Myron Kunin Collection of American Art
Minneapolis Institute of Art
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Untitled (Trees)
(c. 1945) Oil on canvas
Image courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Beauford at the Galerie Prismes

According to biographer David Leeming, Beauford had his first solo show at the Galerie Prismes in May 1956. Leeming describes the works as being "abstractions marked by large areas of paint applied thickly in swirls and various colors - blues, pinks, softer colors than those of the Greene Street period." He remarks that these paintings may represent a transition between Beauford's use of "Fauve-like coloration" in his New York paintings and the use of "tightly textured, less varied coloration" during his Paris years.

"...paint applied thickly in swirls and various colors..." implies that the abstractions from the Galerie Prismes show were done with oils.

Composition 16 is a painting that fits this description, but I do not know that it was shown at the Galerie Prismes.

Composition 16
(1954-1956) Oil on canvas
Museum of Modern Art, New York City
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

While I have no additional images of oil paintings from 1955 / 1956 that fit this description, I am sharing below images of two works on paper that Beauford created during this period. Effectively, the coloring is softer in these works.

(1956) Watercolor on paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Abstract Circles
(1956) Pastel on paper
Knoxville Museum of Art
Knoxville, Tennessee
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Beauford's work was also included in a group show called L'Insurréction Contre La Forme at Galerie Prismes in June 1957. The gallery was located at 6, rue Monsieur-le-Prince in the 6th arrondissement.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Student-Parent Reception for Classes Duo Art Exhibition at KMA

On April 6, I posted an article about the Classes Duo Paris/Knoxville exhibition that is being shown at the Knoxville Museum of Art:

KMA Mounts Classes Duo Paris / Knoxville Exhibition

This week, I'm pleased to share some of the photos taken at the Student-Parent reception, held on Sunday, April 28.

Knoxville Classes Duo Students and art teacher Dawn Kunkel
Image courtesy of Dawn Kunkel

Around the refreshment table
Image courtesy of Dawn Kunkel

Students Chloe and Sarah admire refreshments
Image courtesy of Mary Campbell

The students' works shown were inspired by Beauford's Les Embruns, Greece, Untitled (Trees), and the self-portrait that graces the cover of the 2016 Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color catalog.

Resonance of Form catalog cover

Jean Zay student portraits of Beauford
Image courtesy of Mary Campbell

Additional works represent portraits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., created during Black History Month 2018.

Nature's Way student portraits of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Image courtesy of Mary Campbell

The exhibition will be available for viewing for several additional weeks (closing date: June 23). KMA's executive director, David Butler, is pleased to report that the show is drawing many visitors.

To see additional photos, visit the gallery on the Wells International Foundation's Web site:

KMA Art Exhibition


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Beauford at Notre Dame Cathedral

In the wake of the devastating news about the fire that ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral last week, I'm sharing links to two Les Amis blog posts that talk about Beauford at Notre Dame.

Beauford and Emery: The Delaney Brothers at Notre Dame Cathedral

Beauford's Paris: Notre Dame Cathedral and Fauré's Requiem

I'm also sharing several photos of the cathedral that Discover Paris! (now Entrée to Black Paris) has taken over the years.

Notre Dame viewed from square René Viviani
© Discover Paris!

© Discover Paris!

Notre Dame viewed from quai de Montebello
© Discover Paris!

Arch of central portal and gargoyles
© Discover Paris!

Notre Dame viewed from rue Saint Julien le Pauvre
© Discover Paris!

"Point Zero" for France is located in the square in front of Notre Dame. The number of miles to any place in the country is measured from this spot.

Point Zero
© Discover Paris!

The cathedral of "Our Lady" will be rebuilt!