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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Beauford Delaney: A Study in Portraiture

On August 6, 2019, the Wells International Foundation (WIF) announced the opening for Beauford Delaney: A Study in Portraiture. This digital exhibition, curated by Maija Brennan, examines the evolution of Beauford’s style as he rendered images of persons he loved and admired.

Brennan is WIF’s 2019 summer intern. A rising senior at Smith College, she is majoring in art history – with a concentration in museum studies – and French. She is interested in learning how non-profit organizations work to fund artists and help them show their work and is passionate about making art available to the general public. She is especially interested in exploring how contemporary artists who struggle to promote their work can “even the playing field” using technology.

Maija Brennan
Wells International Foundation 2019 Summer Intern
Image courtesy of Wells International Foundation

WIF’s founder and CEO, Dr. Monique Y. Wells, learned of Brennan’s interest in WIF’s Summer Internship Program through Columbia Global Centers | Paris. Brennan was finishing her junior year abroad there when her French professor, who also served as Associate Director of Smith College in Paris, introduced her to Dr. Wells. She had been made aware of the 2016 art exhibition, Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color, that WIF organized at Columbia Global Centers | Paris, and was excited about the prospect of creating a project around this artist’s work.

Brennan spent six weeks compiling research on Delaney’s art production, focusing on his portraiture and how these works represent some of the most important relationships in his life. She investigated the evolution of the composition and style of Delaney’s portraits as he matured as an artist and produced increasing numbers of Abstract Expressionist paintings. Based on this research, she selected several works for the exhibition.

Beauford Delaney: A Study in Portraiture presents portraits from three periods in Delaney’s life – the years he spent in Boston, New York City, and Paris. A fourth segment of the exhibition presents several self-portraits from the New York and Paris years. A timeline of the artist’s life provides additional perspective on each segment of the exhibition.

A large part of the challenge of creating this exhibition in a format that is easily navigable and pleasing to view on all kinds of devices, from widescreen desktop computers to smartphones. Viewers can click on each portrait to access a larger image and one to two paragraphs of information on a dedicated page about the work.

Another important aspect of the process was planning and implementing the marketing strategy that would make the exhibition known to the public. Brennan evaluated how to maximize her existing social media connections, strengthen profiles and make new connections that she will heavily rely upon in her professional life, and incorporate the many blog posts she wrote about Delaney’s portraits into her strategy. She formulated a plan over the course of a week and implemented the plan during the last week of her internship.

Instagram post announcing A Study in Portraiture
Detail of Café Scene (1966)
Image courtesy of Maija Brennan

On July 29, Brennan presented an extensive preview of the exhibition to a study abroad group from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. (Knoxville was Beauford’s hometown.) The students were enrolled in the "Art History in Paris" course taught by Professor Mary Campbell. Professor Campbell wrote the critique of A Study in Portraiture found on the exhibition Web site.

Maija Brennan presents exhibition to UTK students
Image courtesy of the Wells International Foundation

A total of twenty-one (21) portraits are displayed in the exhibition. The full depth and breadth of Delaney’s artistic genius are represented in the works selected for this online show.

Brennan had the following to say about the exhibition:

Beauford Delaney was an astonishingly talented painter whose works hang in some of today’s most culturally and artistically important institutions. I hope that this digital exhibit can be a reference point and educational tool for those who want to further their understanding of his life and art in the same way they would have had they visited one of these institutions. I also hope that visitors find the exhibition to be a place to simply celebrate the beautiful and sensitively rendered portraits he created throughout his lifetime.

To access Beauford Delaney: A Study in Portraiture, click HERE.

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