Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is supporting the completion of


the first full-length documentary about Beauford.

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



Friday, March 26, 2010

26 March 2010

Beauford died 31 years ago today. His funeral was held at the American Church on April 6, 1979, and his body was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Division 86 at Thiais Cemetery, just south of Paris.

American Church in Paris
© Discover Paris!

For those who are visiting the blog for the first time, note that the primary mission of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is to place a permanent market at Beauford’s grave. As president of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, I heartily thank everyone who has contributed to the $2825 that we have in the gravesite fund thus far!

We have not raised the entire amount of money required to proceed with the creation and installation of his tombstone by as of yet, but we remain confident that we can do so. We need an additional $5675 to reach our target of $8500.

 Division 86 at Thiais Cemetery
© Discover Paris!

We are making good progress with our goals of commemorating Beauford and informing the press and the media of his life and accomplishments. As indicated in the posting of 16 February, I presented “Beauford Delaney: From Paris to Beyond” at the U.S. Embassy Black History Month Festival and at Patricia Laplante Collins’ Paris Soirées during the month of February. Articles about Beauford have been published on the American Center France Web site (in English and French), in the Artist Features section of the online Collector Magazine published by the George R. N’Namdi Gallery, and in the South Florida Times newspaper.  Beauford’s hometown newspaper, the Knoxville News Sentinel, published a notice informing the citizens of Knoxville that our organization exists and that we are accepting donations for the gravesite project. More Web publications are to come within the next several weeks.

Our biggest news to date is that we have received a wonderful letter of support from the Honorable Charles H. Rivkin, U.S. Ambassador to France and Monaco! I will provide details about the letter in a future posting.

I look forward to bringing you more postings about Beauford, and to including as much information as possible from people who knew him personally. Please forward our URL to anyone who you believe would be interested in learning about him by following the blog and / or anyone who would be willing to contribute to our cause.

Thanks for your support!
Monique Y. Wells
President, Les Amis de Beauford Delaney

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Burt and Pat Reinfrank Remember Beauford

Burt Reinfrank was one of Beauford’s friends from the Paris years. Burt was a member of the panel of the trustees that was accorded responsibility for Beauford’s affairs when he was institutionalized at Sainte-Anne’s Hospital during the final years of his life. I was privileged to interview Burt and Pat recently, and thrilled to learn much about Beauford and his work that has never found its way into print. I share some of their anecdotes below.

Burt first met Beauford in 1962, when he worked for the OECD. As an avid art collector, he was constantly seeking out painters and their works. He learned of Beauford’s work through gallery owner Karl Flinker, who gave him the address to Beauford’s studio. Burt went to the studio at rue Vercingétorix, met Beauford, and would be forever changed by their ensuing friendship. Pat met Beauford several years later, not long before he was committed to Sainte-Anne’s, and was also profoundly affected by him. She regrets that at he spoke very little at that point in his life, but recalls his voice as being rich in tone and very cultivated, and his smile as being radiant and beatific.

Burt and Pat Reinfrank next to an original Beauford Delaney
© 2010 Discover Paris!

Because the building in which Beauford lived on rue Vercingétorix no longer exists, and because there are very few descriptions of the exterior of the building, I was pleased when Burt described how he approached Beauford’s studio – through a courtyard and up stairs to a landing with two doors. Beauford’s home was behind the door on the left. Everything inside was covered with white sheets, except the walls, which were covered with paintings. Most of these works were portraits, while the abstract paintings were stored away. Burt said that Beauford invited him to sit in the chair and offered him coffee or tea. That chair was the one where Beauford had subjects sit for portraits (and Burt would eventually pose for a portrait there). Burt said that the apartment windows looked out over a schoolyard, and that voices of young children would fill the apartment at recess times.

Burt is a collector of Beauford’s art, and he had several stories to tell about various pieces that he has obtained, or tried to obtain. One such story pertains to a painting that he saw at Beauford’s studio during a visit there. Burt and Beauford became friends because of Burt’s interest in abstract art. Yet during a visit to Beauford’s studio one day, he saw one of Beauford’s figurative paintings from the New York years. He was quite impressed with it, and over the course of a few days, made up his mind that he wanted to purchase it. When he returned to the studio the following week, he did not see the painting anywhere, and asked Beauford where it was. Beauford told him that he had painted over it, and that the new painting was an abstract work.

Another story relates to a painting that Beauford gave to one of his best friends in Paris, Charlie Boggs – an American painter from Kentucky, who lived very near Beauford with his wife Gita and son Gordon. Burt invited Beauford to celebrate Christmas with him, and offered to pick him up in Montparnasse and take him to the Reinfrank home in Boulogne. Beauford asked Burt to pick him up at the Boggses instead. When Burt entered the apartment, he saw an abstract Delaney painting hanging over the sofa. Charlie helped Beauford to reproduce it as a seriograph, and a few years later, Burt received one of these seriographs as a gift from Beauford. Burt immediately remembered that he had seen the original painting at the Boggses and asked Charlie what became of it. Charlie could not remember, and the whereabouts of the painting have never been discovered.

Some of the Reinfrank collection comes from the paintings that were owned by Ahmed Bioud (link to Rosenfeld Gallery portrait), who Burt considers to have been one of Beauford’s closest friends in Paris. (He does not count James Baldwin and Bernard Hassell as Beauford’s friends, but rather as his family.) Bioud was a professor who worked at the Bibliothèque Nationale, and who would become a great supporter of Beauford by collecting his works and looking after him during Beauford’s bouts of mental and physical illness. The Bioud family would often invite Beauford to stay at their country home and to travel with them. Burt believes that Beauford painted one of the gouache works that he owns today (shown below) at the Bioud summer home.

Untitled, Beauford Delaney
Gouache on paper (1969)
Courtesy of Burt and Pat Reinfrank
Photo © 2010 Discover Paris!

Another painting owned by the Reinfranks (shown below) was originally a gift from Beauford to Charlie Boggs. Boggs sold the painting to Ahmed Bioud for the sum of 3000 FF ($600 at the exchange rate of the day). When Bioud died, his collection was divided among his daughters. Burt and Pat purchased it from a member of the Bioud family.

Untitled, Undated, Signed Beauford Delaney
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Burt and Pat Reinfrank
Photo © 2010 Discover Paris!

Burt had other stories about Beauford’s paintings, such as a work that Beauford created in the style of the slash series of Italian painter Lucio Fontana, and another called Soul Brother that hung in Haynes’ Restaurant in Paris’ 9th arrondissement, for which an illegal copy was placed on the market for a time. But more importantly, he had a lot to say about Beauford’s persona – that shimmering, transcendental quality that made Beauford irresistible to anyone who knew him. He said that whenever he talked with Beauford, he regretted not having a recorder with him because he feared that he would forget the ideas and the philosophy behind what Beauford said. He thought deeply before putting into words what he considers to be the essence of Beauford:

Burt believes that art is an expression of an “inner something” that is present in us all. He says that the question is, are we interested in connecting with that “something,” or are we content to let it lie dormant within us. He says that Beauford was connected with that “something,” which Beauford often spoke of as “the cosmos.” Further, he believes that Beauford had a grasp of the human condition that he (Burt) has never found in any other soul. Words such as “saintly” and “beatific” (used by Pat) only begin to describe Beauford; to think of him in any context other than that of the far-reaching historic, artistic, and civilizing aspects of our culture from ancient times to today is to miss the point.

To sum things up, Burt indicates that Beauford was “something else.”

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cid Corman’s Poetic Tribute to Beauford

Cid Corman (1924-2004) was a prolific poet, and founder of the journal Origin and Origin Press. He began improvising poetry in 1954 on his first trip to France as a Fulbright scholar, and is now considered by many to be the father of oral poetry. In a 2003 interview, he stated that “oral poetry is so completely different from written work that you can't write it down on the page. And it's not a performance - it's speaking to somebody from heart to heart, from the deepest part of my being to the deepest part of someone else's. So what I write now is very close to that work. This is always my orientation, poetry that comes out of speaking language, not writing language.”

Corman met Beauford in Paris in October 1954. They became friends, and Corman wrote a number of poems about Beauford at this time. The two continued to correspond when Corman moved to Japan in 1958.

Corman would meet French gallery owner and publisher Philippe Briet in Japan. In 1995, these men, along with American curator and publisher Richard Milazzo, created a book of poetry dedicated to Beauford. Entitled Tributary (Edgewise Press, 1999); it contains fifty poems and five color reproductions* of Beauford’s paintings. Many of these poems are untitled – all of them are powerful. Corman wrote most of them in 1995.

Photo of cover of Tributary
Courtesy of Sylvain Briet

*The paintings that are reproduced in Tributary are The Burning Bush (1941), Self-Portrait (1944), Chartres (1954), Untitled (c. 1961), and Yellow Cypress (c. 1972).

Corman’s dedication of Tributary to Beauford reads as follows:


these poems respond to the life of a
friend whose art was that of a life
given to life instinctively with all
the resources given him

they are meant to feed back some of the spiritual
and spirited heartbeat of his color
Many of the Tributary poems refer to color – in “Pastel”, Corman writes of “the vibrant soft reds through the blues to let Jimmy see to through”; and in “Abstract Exact,” he talks of “working the yellow, yellow, yellow out of the green green and red.” Others are poetic references to specific Delaney paintings, such as Beauford’s Greene Street, Chartres, and Still Life with Pears. (“Pastel” may be a reference to Beauford’s portrait of James Baldwin entitled The Sage Black, though this painting was done using oils.) Still others refer to Paris, or more specifically, to Montparnasse.

What appeals to me most in the book are the poems that mention “the eye,” the organ that allows us to view the world, and that allowed Beauford to create such extraordinary works. In one untitled poem, Corman writes “So much in the eye – color weaving sky and river – bird and butterfly…the brush drawing every thing into the paint.” The poem “All” invokes “The sculpture of yellow investing a space engaging an eye”.
In looking at his numerous self-portraits, one can see that Beauford frequently painted his eyes asymmetrically and with different colors. His friend Burt Reinfrank told me that he wondered if this was Beauford’s way of portraying one eye looking outward toward the world and the other looking inward toward himself.
Beauford Delaney
Oil on canvas (1944)
Art Institute of Chicago

Corman seemed to have had a similar sense of Beauford’s unique vision. He expressed it in this Tributary poem:

The archetypal

immediate and
eternal black man

shaman artist all

eye and holding light
to its presence en-

cushioned and enthroned.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Beauford's Makonde Figure at the Armory Show Modern in NYC

The Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is exhibiting Beauford's Makonde Figure, a signed and dated painting of an African sculpture, among numerous other works at the Armory Show Modern in Manhattan.  Dates and times are as follows:

Thursday, March 4 - Noon to 8 PM
Friday, March 5 - Noon to 8 PM
Saturday, March 6 - Noon to 8 PM
Sunday, March 7 - Noon to 7 PM

The Armory Show Modern is being held at Twelvth Avenue and Fifty-fifth Street, NYC.  The Michael Rosenfeld Gallery will be at Booth #237 - Pier 92.  For more information, phone the gallery at 212-247-0082, or send e-mail to website (at) michaelrosenfeldart (dot) com.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Beauford and the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

The Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, located at 24 West 57 Street, opened its doors in Manhattan in 1989. It acquired its first Beauford Delaney painting – an untitled portrait – soon afterward, and has been a champion of Beauford’s work ever since. To date, the gallery has mounted twenty-five expositions that have included paintings by Beauford, including two solo expositions of selected abstract works.

Michael Rosenfeld’s wife and partner, halley k harrisburg, is the director of the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. She kindly consented to grant me an interview to provide insight into why the gallery is such a fervent supporter of Beauford’s œuvre.

The story begins with the adolescent Michael Rosenfeld, a precocious youth with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge of art history and artists. He would spend hours roaming the city to look at and buy art objects, and developed relationships with vendors and galleries around town – including many on Madison Avenue. He poured over old ads and archives of artistic works in libraries and museums, noted the names of artists whose work interested him, and sought these artists out. When they consented to meet with him, they were invariably surprised to find that a teenager presented himself for the rendezvous. Michael would put himself through college by buying and selling art.

Many of the paintings that Michael Rosenfeld acquired during his youth were created by African-American artists. He often did not know this at the time that he obtained the works – it was only later that he became aware of the “African-American artist” and the struggles that faced such artists in the American art world, and began to recognize the names of particular artists in this light.

Beauford Delaney (1901-1979)
Ahmed Bioud, 1964
oil on canvas
39 1/4" x 32", signed
© Estate of Beauford Delaney; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York , NY

Michael and halley visited the Paul Facchetti Gallery in Paris during the mid-1990s. Facchetti was a major supporter of Beauford during his Paris years and held several of his works, and Michael and halley purchased several of Beauford’s paintings from Facchetti during that trip. These became the nexus of the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery Delaney collection. Michael and halley also established relationships with Darthea Speyer and others in Paris who supported Beauford and his art. Since that time, they have actively sought to acquire authentic Delaney paintings (halley indicated that there are numerous counterfeit works on the market today), with the intent to sell them to museums as well as to private collectors. They are also eager to make Beauford’s work available to museums for exhibitions.

Beauford Delaney (1901-1979)
Exchange Place, 1943
oil on panel
33 1/4" x 45 1/2", signed
© Estate of Beauford Delaney; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York , NY

In 1995, the gallery held its first solo exposition of Beauford’s paintings. It was entitled Beauford Delaney: 1960s Paris Abstractions, and it ran from September 14 - November 11. At the time, the scant press that Beauford’s work had received concerned his figurative paintings, such as those shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1978. In this context, to mount a solo exposition exclusively composed of abstract works could be considered audacious. halley indicated that this exposition was very poorly attended, and stated her conviction that this was because the public could not comprehend the significance of abstract art produced by an “African-American artist.”

Beauford Delaney (1901-1979)
Untitled, 1960
oil on canvas
51" x 38", signed
© Estate of Beauford Delaney; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York , NY

halley stated that the gallery feels privileged to have handled so many of Beauford’s paintings. When asked what makes his work desirable for the gallery, her passion for it burst forth as she spoke of Beauford’s electric palette, and the raw emotion, sheer integrity, and consistency of intent of his œuvre. She stated that Beauford’s approach to portraits, landscapes, his representations of Washington Square, and his abstractions are quintessentially his own; and that each work of art that he produced was an external representation of all the opportunities, hardships, and relationships that he had experienced in life up to the moment that he set his brush to canvas. She and Michael believe that Beauford is one of the most important of all 20th-century American painters.

Beauford Delaney in his Vercingetonix Studio, c.1967
© Estate of Beauford Delaney; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York , NY

The Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is a supporter of the mission of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney to place a permanent marker at Beauford’s grave at Thiais Cemetery. Please join them in supporting our effort! Send your donation check, made payable to Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, to us at one of the following addresses:

US Dollar donations:

Monique Y. Wells
Les Amis de Beauford Delaney
11503 Sandhurst
Houston, TX 77048

Euro donations:

Monique Y. Wells
Les Amis de Beauford Delaney
52, rue Lhomond
75005 Paris