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!



Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beauford and Friends on Greene Street

After reading last week's guest posting by Richard Gibson on sitting for his Delaney portrait, his friend Tony Hagert sent the information below regarding Beauford's studio on Greene Street in New York. It is a wonderful glimpse at what life was like for him, his roommate, Richard Hadlock, and landlord Beauford!

Greene Street
Beauford Delaney
(1940) Oil on canvas
Photo by André Moran from the Artsmia Web site

Actually, Dick Hadlock and I were on the second floor and Beauford on the third. We paid him $35 per month and later found out he was paying $25 for both floors - all from a generous friend, I think, because it was pretty cheap even for those days (1951+).

The first floor at 181 Greene Street was a twine warehouse and not a fashionable address altho' only two blocks from Washington Square, Fifth Avenue, and New York University. There was no hot water so we used to go to Grand Central Station every so often to bathe for 75 cents (plus tip). If we were invited to someone's home, we would ask if it was OK for us to bring our soap and towel, and they could watch if they wanted - or help, even.

Before we moved in, we had to empty out the second floor which was completely filled with bags of ashes from the pot bellied stove on the third floor - several years' worth. I cannot recall how we disposed of them but it must have been by stealth at night because we could not afford to have them hauled away.

Then we repainted the second floor over the four or five haphazard end-of-the-can colors that had been there before the ashes, brought in our old records, and were as happy as clams.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Richard Gibson Sits for a Portrait by Beauford

Richard Gibson met Beauford at the age of sixteen in Philadelphia and considered Beauford a friend and mentor for the rest of his life. Among the things that Beauford helped Gibson accomplish was to get accepted at the Yaddo artists’ community in Sarasota Springs, NY when he was a struggling young writer trying to produce his first book. In this posting, he talks about how Beauford came to paint his portrait, which was eventually hung at a major exposition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


I visited Beauford in Paris when I was stationed outside Karlsruhe in the US Army in the last days of the allied occupation. I was fortunate enough to obtain my discharge from the Army without having to go back to the States and instead went straight to Paris, taking an overnight train to see Beauford and William Gardner Smith, another good friend. I found a room in what was then called the Hotel des Ecoles on the rue Delambre, where Beauford was staying in a bedroom that was very light and bright on the top floor. The maids had given him old white sheets to improve the light. He slept and worked in this fairly spacious room, which I remember as overlooking rue Delambre. It was hard to see the street because of the guttering on that floor of the building.

The light in the room was reminiscent of that in Beauford’s Greene Street apartment in Greenwich Village, but the space was far more comfortable. I often visited him at Greene Street and two school friends of mine from Philadelphia actually stayed on the floor above for some months. Beauford’s studio there was damp and poorly heated by a pot-bellied stove, but quite light due to the old white sheets that he scattered over furniture and hung over the dark walls.

It was at the rue Delambre apartment where Beauford said he wanted to do my portrait one day in 1955. I did not have to go to classes at the Sorbonne (where I was trying to learn and perfect my French on the GI Bill) that day.

Beauford’s custom was to listen to music of all kinds – from jazz to Marian Anderson, the great black singer of the day – while working, and so it was that day. I was astounded at how swiftly his brushes moved across the small standard canvas that one found in local Montparnasse art shops. My portrait was completed in two hours. It was little more than a sketch perhaps, but I still treasure it as the best likeness of me as a young man.

Portrait of Richard Gibson
Beauford Delaney
Oil on canvas (1955)

To read Richard’s tribute to Beauford on the Les Amis blog, click here.

Richard Gibson standing next to his portrait at the 2005 exposition
Beauford Delaney: From New York to Paris
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Richard Gibson

To read more about the 2005 exposition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, click on the following links:


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beauford’s Works Shown Again in Paris?

Might Beauford’s works be shown again in Paris? If Dorothy Polley of Dorothy’s Gallery has anything to say about it, the answer is a resounding “YES”!

You may remember the name Dorothy Polley from blog postings that I published during 2010. Dorothy’s Gallery generously donated twice to the Beauford Delaney Gravesite Project – first from funds from her gallery itself and then from the proceeds of the sale of a Henry Miller work entitled Sarasota.

Dorothy first became interested in Beauford’s story as a “cause” in which to participate to help preserve the legacy of an American painter. As she organized the sale of Henry Miller’s works for this cause, she discovered Miller’s love for Beauford and developed an interest in him as well. She envisioned having some of Beauford’s work hanging beside Miller’s paintings at the gallery.

Dorothy Polley and Sarasota
© Discover Paris!

While organizing the exhibit of Henry Miller’s work, Dorothy discovered a television documentary of Miller’s visit to Paris for his 80th birthday. Part of this film, entitled Henry Miller Odyssey, was shot in Beauford’s studio on rue Vercingétorix, where she could see Beauford and hear him speak for the first time. She could also see the paintings that hung on the walls of the studio at the time the documentary was filmed. As she learned more about his life and his persona, she decided that Beauford’s work deserved to be shown again in Paris.

Dorothy is a great admirer of James Baldwin, and when she learned what a profound effect Beauford had on Baldwin, she became even more determined to delve deeper into Beauford’s work and to find a way to organize a show featuring his paintings.

When I asked her what draws her to Beauford’s work, Dorothy responded that in painting, portraits have always had a profound effect on her. She finds that Beauford’s portraiture creates an aura of emotion that draws the viewer into the work. Because she likes to show artists who paint in a variety of styles and have a special sense of color, she finds Beauford’s portraits particularly appealing. When I asked Dorothy what she likes about Beauford’s abstracts, she that she was drawn above all to the movement in these paintings, and again, to the profound and poetic sense of color in them.

Mme du Closel
G. R. N’Namdi Gallery
(1964) Pastel on paper

Dorothy is now studying her options for mounting a show that features Beauford. Given that his works are scattered and difficult to obtain, her task will not be an easy one. Possibilities include inviting galleries that possess his works to share an exposition at Dorothy’s Gallery, where she could also hang works of other African-American artists who live or lived in Paris. This would be an exposition of “African-American Artists in Paris – Then and Now.” Alternatively, Dorothy could mount a “museum-type” show at another location in Paris where works would only be on display and not for sale.

I am very pleased that Dorothy’s Gallery is considering hosting an exposition. I stated in my blog posting of November 24, 2010 that instigating an exposition of Beauford’s work in Paris is something that I thought Les Amis de Beauford Delaney might undertake. We have now taken the first small steps in this direction! In future postings on this blog, I will keep you informed of how things are progressing.

Dorothy’s Gallery
27, rue Keller
75011 Paris
Telephone: 33 (0)1 43 57 08 51
Internet: http://dorothysgallery.com/art
E-mail: dorothysgallery@gmail.com

Hours: Sunday and Tuesday – 4 PM to 7 PM
Wednesday through Saturday – 1 PM to 7 PM
Closed Mondays.
Appointments possible.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Beauford Delaney: The Artisan as Witness

by EL Kornegay
EL Kornegay, Jr. is a FTE Fellow and PhD Candidate at Chicago Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, where he is nearing completion of his dissertation on the religious and theological mind of James Baldwin. His awareness and appreciation of Beauford and his work has arisen because of his investigation of Beauford’s influence on Baldwin.
I have come to know Beauford Delaney in a marginal and vicarious fashion. I say marginal in the sense that his works give color, shape, contexts and contours to the not-so-readily-apparent minds, bodies, and souls haunting the edges of our social, literal, and artistic worlds. I say vicarious because in his depictions of the margins of these worlds, he boldly exposes those things we are less willing to see and accept in ourselves and the world around us. Into our world and time, Delaney’s witness is slowly being unearthed and made recognizable to those of us whose social and cultural viewpoint obscures the gritty haunts and shadows of a world we mostly view as shockingly entertaining – a world of madness.

Delaney lived what he painted. He was a witness in the purest sense of the word, giving us a glimpse into a world we often pity and therefore prefer to gaze upon and understand second-hand. It is the world we thoughtfully remark about how grateful we are to encounter only in passing. Using the darkened corners of a peripheral world, Beauford brought color, light, images, and realities only imagined by some – but lived by him – to the center of the universe. Amongst the deepest blacks, through cascading earth tones, yellows, reds, blues, and abiding pastels; the prickly and soothing geometry of shapes gives witness, in a color-full panoramic voice, to a life obscured.

The Eye
Beauford Delaney
(1965) Oil on canvas
Private Collection
© Discover Paris

Beauford channeled the madness and painted saneness with it. He witnessed that fire from within the gulf of its flames and heat. His soul was charred in deep places and the searing images that emerged give us a glimpse into the mindful beauty that exists alongside the terror of the world in which we live and most often, without any resistance, allow to live in us. Beauford was trying to get it out, to exorcise through his art the pain, anguish, and beauty of one who witnesses a world gone mad and is maddened by it.

James Baldwin said of Delaney, “The reality of his seeing caused me to begin to see.”i This is the gift of Delaney’s work: it gives a “vocabulary of color and sounds” and “beauty even in the metaphorical and literal gutter” to our maddening world.

Dark Rapture
(Portrait of James Baldwin as it appears in Amazing Grace)
(1941) Oil on board
© Discover Paris

Beauford Delaney’s life and work is trying to speak to us: it is trying to get us to say and see something different about our world, ourselves, and the madness we all rationalize as reasonable. To appreciate the work of Beauford Delaney is to accept the beauty of those things – memories and people – we choose to throw away, to allow to lie in the gutter, and to not witness. It is also the acceptance of the idea that the things we hold onto to prove our sanity are, in fact, driving us insane. Delaney provides us a glimpse of beauty, color and sounds of the people, places, and things of the margins. Through Beauford’s artistic witness we are given a picture of sanity that makes the canvas of a maddening world beautiful and normal.

i David Leeming, James Baldwin: A Biography (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1994), 33-34