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, July 30, 2011

Joseph Delaney Remembers Beauford

Joseph Delaney was Beauford’s younger brother. Born in 1904, he and Beauford were the closest in age of the Delaney siblings. Both became artists and were part of a community of artists living in NYC during the Great Depression. Both have their works exhibited at the Knoxville Museum of Art in their hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Image of a portrait of Joseph Delaney
by Beauford Delaney
in Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney
by David A. Leeming

Joseph was asked to contribute remarks to the catalog that was published in conjunction with the first retrospective of Beauford’s work, held at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1978. He described Beauford as “one of the most sensitive and talented of all artists of all times,” and said that if he were to qualify that statement, he would need to explore “all of the qualities which make for the enigma which genius is . . .” He noted that Beauford was recognized early in life as being a special person with unique talents, and that “teachers and other professional people of high rank gave Beauford time and understanding.”

Catalog for Beauford’s 1st Retrospective at the
Studio Museum in Harlem 1978

Joseph also described Beauford as being multitalented, saying that Beauford could “sing like mad,” and play the ukulele, and that he was an excellent mimic. Beauford was the extrovert, while Joseph was the introvert of the two brothers.

Another distinction that Joseph makes in his tribute to his brother is that Beauford developed an appreciation for opera and “other great classics in music and literature.” He states that Beauford was never happier than on the day in 1969 when Joseph visited him in Paris and Beauford took him to the opera.

To read the complete text of Joseph Delaney’s remarks, click on the following link: http://sunsite.utk.edu/delaney/beauford.htm

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Larry Calcagno's Portrait of Beauford

Larry Calcagno's portrait of Beauford is one of the rare examples of someone other than Beauford committing Beauford's image to paper. (See the posting on the Georgia O'Keeffe portraits for other examples.)

Portrait of Beauford Delaney
Lawrence Calcagno
(1972) Acrylic

I wrote about Beauford's friendship with Calcagno in April of this year. The first image in that article is the cover of the catalogue from an art exposition that presented Calcagno's and Beauford's works together as a tribute to their friendship. Calcagno's portrait of Beauford was shown in this exposition.

In the introduction for the catalogue, David Leeming wrote an exquisite summary of Beauford's and Calcagno's relationship:

What Beauford Delaney saw in Larry Calcagno was a soul mate and a lifeline to sanity. What Larry saw in Beauford was a remarkable case of total dedication to the mysterious process by which an individual's external and internal life and the essence of life could be re-created in paint.

Calcagno and Beauford met in 1953, when Beauford came to Paris. They were introduced by a mutual friend, and they became "devoted colleagues." Correspondence between the two men reveals the depth of their friendship, which grew and was strengthened over twenty-plus years.

Calcagno gave Beauford what is perhaps one of the finest tributes of all in a written description of the episode when Beauford disappeared in 1975 and Calcagno and many others scoured the streets of Paris looking for him:

He is about the only person in my life, who gave me generously of deep insights into life—without demanding tribute. A true artist—beyond this world!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Kelli Agodon's Tribute to Beauford

A few days ago, Les Amis de Beauford Delaney received a donation from Kelli Russell Agodon, along with a note of thanks to Les Amis for publishing this blog. When I wrote to thank her for her contribution, she responded that she planned to write about Beauford on her blog, Book of Kells. 

On Thursday, July 14th, she did just that.

Kelli's tribute to Beauford is entitled Thankful Thursday - Beauford Delaney, American Artist. In it, she describes him as her "favorite artist that many people have never heard of," and thanks the Les Amis blog for keeping Beauford's memory alive. She includes links to David Leeming's biography of Beauford and to the Artsmia Web site for images of Beauford's work. She states that she is thankful for his art and for being able to share Beauford with her readers.

Thank you, Kelli, for taking the time to write about Beauford and for your heartfelt words!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Why Artisan? Thinking about Beauford

By EL Kornegay Jr.
In a previous posting entitled "Beauford Delaney: The Artisan as Witness," EL Kornegay Jr. took a first, insightful look at Beauford's art from the vantage point of his emerging awareness of Beauford's influence on James Baldwin. Here, he elaborates on what he sees as the difference between Beauford as "artist" and Beauford as "artisan."
There may seem to be very little difference between the words “artist” and “artisan.” On the surface it is easy to see that the former proceeds from the latter. However, the application of these words can and does mean something different to the one labeling and the one being labeled. Such is the case with Beauford Delaney.i

James Baldwin once wrote that what Beauford taught him to see first was not his painting, his art, “that came later,” but the world as Beauford “caused me to see it.”ii It is important that we understand Beauford the artisan so that we might understand his artistic genius and the deep beauty of his art.

Portrait of Beauford Delaney
(ca. 1950)
Possibly by Gjon Mili

If we look at Beauford and his work through the lens that he taught Baldwin to use to view the world, then our initial glance frames him as an artisan who practiced first seeing and then painting. I would say his aim was not to produce fine art for us to regard from a distance, standing behind a velvet rope, while artificial light reflects the sophistication of the one viewing. Rather, Beauford the Artisan wanted to cause us to see something that we do not want to see. He wanted to teach us to see our world and to love even that which is considered the least of it.

It is at second glance that we see Beauford become an artist: a skilled practitioner whose life and work is just beginning to be recognized as “fine art.” His world went unnoticed by most; the darkness he made beautiful mattered only to him, and he remained faithful to what he saw.

It is my guess that this is the way for many who, like Beauford, practiced a craft on the margins where most do not dare to look or experience. They refuse to sacrifice the truth of what they see for the sake of acceptance – for the sake of what we perceive to be art.

Beauford Delaney becomes an artist only after we apprehend what he causes us to see – not before. He becomes an artist only after we have learned the practice of seeing the world – not merely its colors or its dimensions, but the spirit of the light shaping it in our eyes and minds. James Baldwin says of his mentor, “Beauford’s work leads the inner and the outer eye, directly and inexorable, to a new confrontation with reality.”iii

Portrait of James Baldwin
Beauford Delaney
(1945) Oil on canvas
Philadelphia Museum of Art

The artisan gives way to the artist only when we have accepted how he practices seeing the world and paints it. This is what makes Beauford Delaney an artisan who we are beginning to love as an artist and this is what makes his work fine art.


i This reflection is in response to the question of why I used “artisan” to describe Beauford Delaney. I am using James Baldwin as an interlocutor to frame this reflection, since it is he that first introduced me to Beauford as the one who taught him to see the world and to paint its beauty with his words. As such, I see myself as a student of both men.
ii James Baldwin, “On the Painter Beauford Delaney” in James Baldwin: Collected Essay, Toni Morrison, ed. (New York, N.Y.: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1998), 721.
iii Ibid, pp.720.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Beauford Painting Auctioned at Doyle New York

Many thanks to DLeopold, who recently shared the following comment on the blog posting about Beauford and Al Hirschfeld:

Hirschfeld and Freeman were instrumental in introducing Delaney to a wide range of friends and collectors, which provided him the means to focus on his art. Several works on paper by Delaney from Hirschfeld's collection will go to the auction block on June 22nd. Check it out at http://www.doylenewyork.com/content/more.asp?id=157.

I visited the Doyle New York Web site and found a single Delaney painting that had been assigned Lot Number 151 and an estimated sale price of $4000 to $6000. It is a pastel on grey/green paper entitled Street Scene, dated 1953 (the year that Beauford sailed for Paris).

Street Scene
Beauford Delaney
(1953) Pastel on paper

The auction was held on June 22, 2011 at 10 AM. Beauford's pastel sold for $37,500!