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!



Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Colorful and Generous Donation!

When I wrote to http://www.herbertgentry.com/ several days ago to obtain permission to use the photograph of Herb Gentry in last week's posting, little did I know that I would receive a generous outpouring of support from his widow, Mary Anne Rose!

Rose sent a return e-mail message within 24 hours, not only to tell me that I could use the photograph, but also to indicate that she wished to donate a Gentry serigraph (silkscreen) to be sold in support of the Beauford Delaney Gravesite Project. "I know Gentry would have given a piece of his art to stimulate other giving," she wrote.

In a second message, she relayed the following:
I met Beauford Delaney twice, at the end of his life. It was when Gentry and I lived at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris (1978-1980), at the beginning of our lives together. Beauford was ill and residing at St. Anne's. The first time I met him, we found him in the garden wearing bright blue pajamas and a yellow straw hat, like the Van Gogh self-portrait. The attendants said they knew he was very special. The second and last time I saw him he was in bed, little and frail. He would not live much longer. Both times when Herb introduced me, Beauford took my hand and held it very gently.

The work is called Always Green (2000). It is from an edition of 150. The paper size is 15.25" x 11.5".

Always Green
Herbert Gentry
Serigraph (2000)

We are planning to place this beautiful serigraph up for auction as soon as we set up an account with a fine arts auction house. Until that time, the work will be available for purchase at the price of $1,500.00.  If you are a collector, or know of one, who would like to acquire this work, please contact me at amisdebeauford(at)yahoo.com as soon as possible.

Les Amis de Beauford Delaney thanks Mary Anne Rose for her generous contribution!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Herbert Gentry on Beauford

Herb Gentry (1919-2003) was one of several African-American artists who moved to Paris after World War II.  He was a friend of Beauford and speaks extensively of Beauford in the interview below.

The entire text of this posting is taken from the following source, which is in the public domain:
Oral history interview with Herbert Gentry, 1991 May 23, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.  It has not been modified.  The interview was conducted by Lisa Kirwin.

 Herbert Gentry
© 1992 Walter Backen
Lomma, Sweden
Courtesy of Mary Anne Rose

MR. GENTRY: ...And then when I finally decided to go it was 1953. Beauford, I didn’t know him well. And then when I got on the boat I looked around to see who’s on the boat and -- did I tell you this? [Liza confirms] He was on the same boat and I spent all the time with him and it was a beautiful experience. This man was so philosophical. And then I guess he talked about things that we both never, you look at the sky – look at the blue and the clouds and we would talk about this and we would talk about feelings and thoughts and it was a beautiful time I spent those five or six days with him. And he had never been outside the States, but I had been to Paris.

Photo of a photo of Beauford on the deck of the ship Liberté
© Discover Paris!

And then we arrived at Le Havre and some people came to pick him up. I don’t know what happened, I went directly to -- I’ve forgot where I went but I was in Paris, I knew Paris. But I did ask him, I said, “Anything I can do for you?” He said, “No, I have friends who’re going to pick me up.” And then they picked him up and I went elsewhere.

And then eventually I saw him in Montparnasse. He became an artist in Montparnasse and everybody knew him in Montparnasse because he was a person that, he was a great artist. But the greatest philosopher I’ve ever met. He was older than most of the students, so he had all these wise sayings, and anybody had any psychological problem they would go and see him. Like for example, one time something was happening, I didn’t know, I went to see him. He said, “What’s the matter?” “Well,” I said, “the money’s low, I’m very unhappy and I don’t want to write home for money and I’ve money coming in.” And he would open a little purse he’d carried, he opened it and he said, “Look, I have enough for a little coffee and a croissant for -- oh yes, now tell me: what’s the matter?”

Sketch of Herb Gentry by Beauford Delaney
"Trying to make a wonder genius. With Glory!"
Courtesy of Mary Anne Rose and the Gentry Estate

And you know, I never really tell people all my problems. All of a sudden I caught myself: wow, great psychiatrist here, psychologist. And I’m talking to him and opening up and feeling better, I mean really. I realized -- well, I knew that later -- how important it is to have someone to talk to, have a dialogue, or have someone you can talk to and they would listen, maybe advise. And he would say these things. I felt good, you know! And that’s what he did to many people -- the French and everything, yes. He was a great artist, I would visit him from time to time.

And then later I met a painter named Larry Potter, an African-American painter, Larry Potter, a great friend of mine, who “passed” in Paris, who would eventually exhibit in New York, I’d have to write the forward to his exhibition. Both the Delaneys liked him very much and he was a very sensitive person. I remember we would walk to visit Beauford in his studio and in his studio everything was spick and span. And he’d have these big American white sheets all over everything. [Speaking in high falsetto] “-- with Beauford.” Everything was covered, this was part of his little illness become, I think. I mean hit a certain niveau [level] and after that you know you go right to the top in thinking and philosophy, philosophical statements. And then I think the mind can’t go any further. He was so great, in everything -- in painting, knowledge, warmth.

 Larry Potter in Explorations of the City of Light Catalog
 © Discover Paris!

Larry was very sensitive too. We would knock on his studio door and Larry would say, “Pardon me, open”. He said, “All right, if you’re not busy, can we come see you now?” That was very important to respect his privacy. He said, “Oh yes, you and Herbert Gentry, always.” Invariably we’d sit down and he’d fix us a little tea and he’d do his hands like this. [Liza laughs] We had a wonderful time. When he was in Montparnasse, the center, one of the cafes, Select Cafe, or the Dom, all the waiters, all the French people, Monsieur Beauford and he didn’t speak hardly any French but they all respected him. He was so kind. And it was the duty of all the artists in Montparnasse if they saw Beauford out there pretty late at night, they would take him home. He was a concern. He was very important to the American art life in Paris. And he was a great friend of James Baldwin [author], too, I guess you know that.

MS. KIRWIN: Yes, I was going to ask then you watched him progressively go – his mind?

MR. GENTRY: This is what happened. See, I was invited to exhibit in Denmark in 1959 when the Danish painters were invited to exhibit at the Riverside Museum. It was an honor, and they were the most famous Danish painters. But this museum does not exist any more, the Riverside Museum in New York; and I was invited to go to Denmark. So I went to Denmark and I had this exhibition and I stayed in Denmark for awhile, I worked there.

But I kept the studio in Paris, and I would go back from time to time; out of the year I was back to Paris every three or four months. What were we talking about?

MS. KIRWIN: I was asking about his health.

MR. GENTRY: Oh yes. So as soon as I’d go to Paris he would be one of the few that I’d know I had to see right away -- Larry Potter, my friend who had died, and Beauford Delaney and a number of friends but those two were the first two or three or four that I would go and see. So I would go and see him. Then I noticed that he started to get really away from me, he wasn’t very clear in what he was saying, he was going way up in the sky about what was happening, but it was [laughing] beautifully poetic. And I loved him. He would make statements like, “The sun is a sunny red.” He was right. [Laughter.] And you go with him and then you say, hey, you know, but maybe he’s a little off, but he was so great.

So he was very happy when I would come and give him a hug and we would talk and I’d find out if he had any money. I always would have a little money and I’d take him to dinner. And one time Romare Bearden came and spent about two weeks in Paris and he and Annette, his wife, widow. First he would ask for Beauford and then we took him down to an American restaurant, [belonging to] a fellow named Haynes [Leroy “Roughhouse” Haynes]. You never heard of him?

Portrait of Leroy Haynes
Photo © 2005 Discover Paris!

An American restaurant in Montmartre and we went there. Soon as he finished – “Beauford was hungry, he ate so well,” but all of a sudden right after he finished wanted to go right back to Montparnasse, that was his home area, see he knew that. Then I knew that he was getting old, because he got nervous, but while he was eating he was hungry -- maybe hadn’t eaten that day. Not because he didn’t have money but this sickness was starting.

Haynes Restaurant
(Closed in 2009)
© 2005 Discover Paris!

And then I heard someone say that he gave some of his paintings away. I went and found that person, I got those paintings back. But then he started giving some paintings away. Some people might have taken advantage of him, took his paintings.

End of excerpt

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Beauford's Paris Café Life

From the first days that Beauford arrived in Paris, he enjoyed café life.  This posting presents contemporary photos of some of his favorite cafés in Montparnasse and near the Saint Germain district on the Left Bank.

Le Select

 Le Select
99, boulevard du Montparnasse
75006 Paris
© Discover Paris!

Personal communications from Burt Reinfrank and long time African-American expatriate Tannie Stovall indicate that Beauford was often seen at the Select.  He was frequently surrounded by "friends," some of whom were inclined to take advantage of his generous nature and allowed him to pay for food and drink for everyone though he could ill afford it. In Amazing Grace, biographer David Leeming recounts that in Beauford's later years, he would sometimes order large meals here or at Le Dôme (see below) and have no funds to pay the bill.  The café owners knew Beauford so well that they would ignore the unpaid bill.  At times, a friend of Beauford would cover the charges.

The Select was also a favorite of a contemporary African-American artist and friend of Beauford, Ed Clark.

Le Dôme

 Le Dôme
108, boulevard du Montparnasse
75014 Paris
© Discover Paris!

David Leeming recounts that on Beauford's first night in Paris, he felt restless and decided to leave his hotel at around 11PM to buy a sandwich.  He entered Le Dôme, the first place that he encountered, and was pleasantly surprised to find a painter friend from New York inside.  Earl Kirkham was in the company of many other Americans, and Beauford joined them for an evening of merriment.  Beauford would return to his hotel at three or four the following morning.

Ed Clark recounted an amusing anecdote about Beauford and the Dôme to me several years ago.  He and Beauford once sold paintings to a white American here.  After having completed the transaction, he and Beauford sat down to share a few drinks with the buyer.  Because the man had been purchasing art all day, he did not have the money to pay his bar tab at the end of the day.  Thus he asked Beauford if he would kindly take his paintings back in exchange for the money, which Beauford did.

Beauford's friend Richard Gibson indicates that Beauford was often at Le Dôme.

La Coupole

La Coupole
102, boulevard du Montparnasse
75014 Paris
 © Discover Paris!

Gibson also indicates that Beauford and his friends sometimes frequented La Coupole.  Though this was the most expensive of the Carrefour Vavin cafés at the time (Le Dôme is by far the most expensive at present), Beauford and friends such as Ed Clark were occasionally able to afford to eat on the left side of the restaurant, which was cheaper than the right side where tables were set with cloth napkins.  Michel Fabre and John A. Williams' A Street Guide to African Americans in Paris mentions a happy evening that Beauford spent here in the company of fellow painter Herb Gentry and writer Lindsay Barrett.

Au Petit Suisse and Le Tournon

Au Petit Suisse
16, rue de Vaugirard
75006 Paris
© Discover Paris!

Richard Gibson also recounts that Beauford did not like the Café Tournon, the famous hangout for African-American expats in the post-World War II era.   He says that Beauford found it "too macho and not very friendly" the few times that he managed to get Beauford to go there, and that Beauford preferred Au Petit Suisse, which is located across the street from the Odéon Theater and the Luxembourg Garden.  The two cafés are still in existence, and are less than a five minute walk apart.

Café Tournon
18, rue de Tournon
75006 Paris
© Discover Paris!

In Amazing Grace, David Leeming states that Beauford would sometimes go to the Tournon in the company of James Baldwin and his entourage, and would even go there alone on occasion to engage in philosophical discussions. Richard Wright was a domineering force during these discussions (and not particularly welcoming to gay men), and Leeming indicates sthat Beauford and Wright were never close.

The Tournon lists Beauford, Ellington, Baldwin, Wright, and other African Americans on the history page of its Web site (in French).  There is a vintage photograph of Beauford and Duke Ellington seated at a table in the café that the servers may be willing to show you if you inquire at the bar!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thanks to our Donors and New Appeal for Contributions!

Beauford Delaney (1901-1979)
Self-Portrait, 1950
pastel, charcoal and watercolor on paper
15" x 12 1/2", signed
© Estate of Beauford Delaney; Private Collection
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York , NY

We have made great progress in our fundraising campaign, and I would like to thank all of you for your support thus far. At the time of this writing, we have received $5400 of our target goal of $8500 from several generous contributors!  With their approval, I am pleased to list them here (in alphabetical order, by last name):

Patrick Albano, Aaron Galleries
James Armstrong
Estate of James Baldwin
Shelley Bradford-Bell
Sue Canterbury
Frank Carner, in honor of Irene and Billy Rose
Richard Gibson
Barney Kirchhoff
David Leeming
Richard A. Long
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY
The Reinfrank Family
Catherine St. John
Richard L. Sewell
Mary Sewell Smith
Clarence and Collie Wells
Monique Y. Wells (U.S. Federal Assistance Award) 

I would also like to thank one donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

You may have noticed that the donor list is now posted in the sidebar directly beneath our "Donate" button.  I will continue to add names to the sidebar, and will acknowledge future contributors in postings, as I have done here.

As I mentioned in a previous message, we are targeting August 2010 for completion of the installation of the tombstone.  We now have enough money to begin the preparatory work for the gravesite, and have asked the funeral parlor to order the required materials.  But we still need to collect $3100 to reach our goal! We need this money urgently so that we may order the tombstone as soon as possible to have it in place for the commemorative ceremony that we plan to hold in August.  Therefore,  I ask that you continue to spread the word about our project and encourage your friends and colleagues to donate.  If you personally have not yet made a contribution, please consider doing so.  Every dollar and euro count!

President, Les Amis de Beauford Delaney