Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is supporting the completion of

BEAUFORD DELANEY: SO SPLENDID A JOURNEY,

the first full-length documentary about Beauford.


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

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Saturday, August 15, 2020

A Study in Portraiture - One Year Later

Just over a year ago, I had the pleasure to announce the opening of the virtual exhibition entitled Beauford Delaney: A Study in Portraiture on the Wells International Foundation's (WIF) Web site.

Curator Maija Brennan was a rising senior at Smith College when she created the exhibition during her 2019 WIF summer internship in Paris. Now employed as an oral history researcher focused on the history of African American art and artists at The HistoryMakers in Chicago, IL, she attributes her interest and skills in this area to the knowledge she acquired while working on A Study in Portraiture.

The HistoryMakers is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational institution committed to preserving and making widely accessible the untold personal stories of well-known and unsung African Americans. Their mission is to create a more inclusive record of American history.

Today, I'm bringing you a few of the portraits that Brennan selected for the virtual exhibition. Click on the hyperlinked title for each image to go to the exhibition and read the information there.


Untitled (Portrait of a Young Man), 1928
Charcoal on paper Knoxville Museum of Art 2017 purchase with funds provided by the Rachael Patterson Young Art Acquisition Reserve © Estate of Beauford Delaney by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

Untitled (Portrait of a Young Man)
(circa 1930-35) Color pastels and charcoal on gray, textured wove paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Portrait of Howard Swanson
(1967) Oil on canvas
Image courtesy of Levis Fine Art
© Estate of Beauford Delaney,
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Auto-portrait
(1965) Oil on canvas
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Seventeen (17) additional portraits are featured in A Study in Portraiture. I strongly encourage you to visit the Wells International Foundation's Website to see them!

Beauford Delaney: A Study in Portraiture

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Beauford and Marcel Duchamp

Thanks to Peter Stebbins, President of the Lily and Earle M. Pilgrim Art Foundation, I was recently able to publish an article about Vincent Livelli's recollections of Beauford during Beauford's New York years.

Stebbins also graciously connected me with Kate Prendergast and Jane Barrell Yadav, the daughters of painter Marcia Marcus. Marcus and Lily & Earle Pilgrim were dear friends and Marcus' daughters are passionately working to preserve their mother's legacy.

Marcus had the extraordinary opportunity to photograph Beauford with French artist and writer Marcel Duchamp. Her daughters kindly allowed me to publish the photo below and shared the story of how the opportunity came to be.

Marcel Duchamp (center) and Beauford (lower right), 1953
© Marcia Marcus / Artists Rights Society (ARS)
Image courtesy of Kate Prendergast

An article that describes the events of that day states that:

"In March 1953, Michael Freilich, owner of the Roko Gallery in Greenwich Village, asked twenty-eight year-old Victor Obsatz to photograph Marcel Duchamp in his apartment at 210 West 14th Street. A double exposure occurred by chance, creating an overlay of Duchamp’s playful smile and iconic profile ....

"The work has since become one of the most well-known and sought-after images of the artist, and has been reproduced in many texts on Duchamp, Dada, and Surrealism, including the National Portrait Gallery’s 2009 exhibition catalogue “Inventing Marcel Duchamp: The Dynamics of Portraiture.”

Though the article mentions neither Marcus nor Beauford, both were present that day. Obsatz, who was Marcus' classmate at Cooper Union, took a photo of her sitting next to Duchamp on a sofa, with her camera lying between them.

According to biographer David Leeming, Beauford met Duchamp in New York when he visited Freilich's home. Duchamp and Freilich lived in the same building at the time.

Portrait of a man in red / Michael Frelich
(1965) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
By permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Obsatz invited Marcus to assist him at the photo shoot and Marcus took several photos of Duchamp with her camera. She is the author of the photo that places Beauford at the scene. She later became known for double imagery (reflections - shadow - mirrors) in her paintings.

Click HERE to see a couple of the photos Marcus took that day, as well as Obsatz's photograph of her and Duchamp.

The phrasing of the Moeller Fine Art article regarding the location of the photo shoot is ambiguous - it could be taken to mean that the group met at Freilich's apartment or at Duchamp's place.

Note that Beauford's Still Life with Pears is partly visible on the wall to the left of Duchamp in Marcus' photograph.

Still Life with Pears
(1946) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

It is certainly possible that Duchamp owned the painting. But given that Freilich had been showing Beauford's work at the Roko Gallery since 1949, it seems more likely that Still Life with Pears would hang in Freilich's apartment. (To the best of my knowledge, this work remains in a private collection.)

Kate Prendergast found the image of Duchamp and Beauford in her mother's archived materials. In a telephone interview that she recorded with Obsatz in July 2016, he mentions that Freilich introduced him to Duchamp and indicates that Beauford was present during the shoot.

Had it not been for the legacy work that Marcus' daughters are pursuing, we may never have known about Beauford's involvement in this moment in art history!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

In a Mood

In last week's blog post, "Silencing the Voices," I talked frankly about Beauford's life journey with mental illness and the role it played in his artistic production.

I quoted Beauford's friend, Richard A. Long, who expressed his opinion that much of what Beauford created during his Clamart years reflected melancholy. And I promised to share several images of Beauford's work from this period so that you can draw your own conclusions about the mood that these works might convey.

I have previously explored the subject of Beauford's illness and its effect on his work in posts entitled "Capturing the Shock of Life" and "Melancholy, Sorrow, and Joy." I've republished images from these posts below. Click on the hyperlinked article titles centered above the images to read the original articles.

CAPTURING THE SHOCK OF LIFE

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

MELANCHOLY, SORROW, AND JOY - PART 2

Untitled
(1961) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator


Untitled
(1961) Mixed media on paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

I'm posting additional images and article hyperlinks from previous posts with the same intent:

BEAUFORD IN INK

Untitled
(1961) Ink, inkwash, and aquarelle on paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

MORE BEAUFORD DELANEY WORKS AT AUCTION

Untitled
Aquarelle signed et dated 1961, lower right
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

BEAUFORD'S SOLO SHOW AT THE PAUL FACCHETTI GALLERY

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

CASE ANTIQUES OPENS BIDDING ON THREE BEAUFORD DELANEY WORKS

Untitled
Watercolor and gouache on paper (recto)
Signed and dated lower right in black ink, "Beauford Delaney 61"
Photo courtesy of Case Antiques
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Find additional images at the links below (look at the works mentioned below).

Swann Auction Galleries African American Fine Art Sale - Results Are in
Untitled (Composition in Green, Red and Black)

What Sold at Swann Auction Galleries' October 2017 African American Fine Art Sale
Untitled (Brown and Orange Abstraction)

Beauford at Swann Auction Galleries: April 2016 Sale Results
Untitled (Composition in Purple, Blue and Green))
Untitled (Abstract in Mustard Yellow and Gray Green, Mallorca)

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Silencing the Voices

July is BIPOC Mental Health Month (formerly known as Minority Mental Health Month). It is the perfect time to shine a light on Beauford's epic struggle to deal with his inner voices - the voices that drove him to attempt suicide and fueled the expression of his creative genius.

Self-portrait
(1970) Gouache on paper
Collection of David A. Leeming
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Biographer David Leeming mentions Beauford's voices several times in Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney. As early as the first page of the first chapter of the biography, he talks about "the inner voices that in the early years only teased him [Beauford] but later gradually took over his mind." He indicates that Beauford began hearing whispering "voices of despair" while living in Knoxville and says that Beauford's only defense against them was his art.

Leeming says that by 1958, Beauford's purpose for painting shifted from attempting to ward off the voices to capturing their essence. Beauford wrote to his friend, Larry Wallrich, that year to say that he was "still trying to bring together color compositions from the strange and many-faceted thing that is my life."

Beauford's voices became more active and aggressive when he traveled. During his trip to Greece in July 1961, they taunted and threatened him mercilessly, until he jumped overboard from the ship on which he sailed from Brindisi to Patras. Fortunately, the ship was docked at Patras and Beauford was rescued (he could not swim). He was briefly hospitalized and through arrangements made by the American Consultate, he traveled to Athens, where he was met by someone from the U.S. Embassy. In the hotel room that had been reserved for him there, his voices berated and threatened him again, and he attempted suicide by slashing his wrists with a penknife. He was taken to the Embassy and authorities there had him admitted to a mental hospital.

Darthea Speyer, a devoted friend and patron, had organized Beauford's trip to Greece. She was notified of what happened and had Beauford moved to a private clinic, where he stayed for several weeks. She then organized his return to Paris, which took place on August 21, 1961.

Beauford's friends did their best to support him during the remainder of the summer and fall, but he remained physically and mentally fragile. Thanks to the intervention of Mme Solange du Closel and Dr. Ahmed Bioud, two dear friends, he was admitted to the psychiatric clinic at Nogent-sur-Marne in December 1961. Mme du Closel and her husband then purchased the apartment that Beauford would use as a studio upon his release from the clinic until he was permanently committed to Hôpital Sainte-Anne in 1975.

Beauford and James Baldwin
at Sainte Anne's Hospital, 1976
Photo by Max Petrus

Beauford had several "episodes" between his release from the Nogent clinic and his admission to Sainte Anne's Hospital. Leeming's most vivid description of these pertains to the one that he personally witnessed in 1966, when James Baldwin charged him with fetching Beauford from Paris and driving him to Istanbul. Beauford could only find relief from the voices if Leeming lay in bed with him:

"I got into his cot with him and together, in each other's arms, we held off the voices, which by now, I had begun to hear, too."

Richard A. Long, the friend of Beauford who organized the 1978 retrospective of Beauford's work at the Studio Museum in Harlem, wrote that Beauford's works from the Clamart years (1956-1961) were characterized by a

"frequent overtone of melancholy, imposed either by a somber palette or by the sheer power of clashing color-masses. Interspersed with these are the occasional journeys into blinding yellow and pink light..."

I don't know that Beauford's Clamart works frequently express melancholy, but I have noted that several works dated 1958 through 1961 are quite dark and brooding. I'll present images of some of these in next week's blog.