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, November 26, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Les Amis blog is taking Thanksgiving Day weekend off!

May you and your loved ones be showered with blessings this weekend and throughout the holiday season.

President, Les Amis de Beauford Delaney

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Beauford and the Catalog of American Portraits

In researching last week's posting about Beauford's works at the National Portrait Gallery, I learned about the Catalog of American Portraits. Known by the acronym CAP, it maintains records of historically significant American portraits - those made of notable American subjects or created by notable American artists.

CAP has been cataloging portraits since 1971, when it initiated a survey of public and private collections across the country. Its surveyors travel to participating collections to examine the portraits firsthand and to gather additional information on each work.

Beauford's name appears eleven (11) times in the CAP search database. Three James Baldwin portraits, the portraits of May Swenson and Ethel Waters (discussed in last week's posting), and two O'Keeffe portraits of Beauford are catalogued. The remainder of the works consists of three self-portraits of Beauford and his portrait of Rosa Parks. The owners of all works are listed and photos of a few of the works are presented.

The owner of the three self-portraits and the Rosa Parks portrait is listed as Philippe Briet Inc. Philippe and Sylvain Briet operated an art gallery in Manhattan during the 1980s and 90s and worked diligently to bring Beauford's paintings to the attention of the art world. Click here to read the article that Les Amis published about the Briet Brothers in January 2010.

Philippe wrote an essay about Beauford that he addressed to Sylvain in 1995. In it, he writes of the essence of Beauford's art and spirit. The article (in French) can be found in Philippe Briet: Art Art Art, the catalog created for the 2007 exposition of the same name presented by the Lower Normandy region of France.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Beauford at the Smithsonian Institution - Part 2

Last week's posting presented works by Beauford and papers relevant to Beauford at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American Art and Archives of American Art, respectively. This week, we'll look at the holdings of the National Portrait Gallery.

I've written several times about Beauford's portrait of James Baldwin that is held by the National Portrait Gallery. The Gallery owns two additional portraits by Beauford - one of Ethel Waters and one of poet May Swenson.

The Waters portrait is a pastel on paper, dated 1940. Acquired in February 2011, it is listed as a "prominent work" in a fact sheet published by the Smithsonian in September 2011. There is no image of the portrait displayed on the Gallery's Web site; however, the grayscale image below can be found in Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, David A. Leeming's biography of Beauford.

Ethel Waters
(1940) Pastel on Paper

Leeming indicates that Beauford began creating a series of charcoal and pastel drawings of "jazz musicians and other important figures" in the late 1930s at the urging of W. C. Handy. Waters, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong were among them.

There is an image of the May Swenson portrait online at the Catalog of American Portraits Web site:

May Swenson
(1960) Pastel and chalk on paper

Swenson and Beauford met at the Yaddo Art Colony in Saratoga Springs in 1950. Swenson and her daughter visited Beauford in Paris in 1954.

The National Portrait Gallery also owns one of Georgia O'Keeffe's masterful pastel portraits of Beauford, which I wrote about in the August 2010 issue of this blog.

Beauford Delaney
Georgia O'Keeffe
(1943) Pastel on paper

Click here to listen to the audio recording that the National Portrait Gallery has posted about the portrait.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Beauford at the Smithsonian Institution - Part 1

As part of my mission to provide you with information about where Beauford's works can be found in the U.S. and around the world, I am bringing you a two-part accounting of works by and about Beauford that are held at the Smithsonian Institution.

Earlier this year, I published a guest posting by Jason Steiber of the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art about the museum’s acquisition of Darthea Speyer's papers, which contain several items related to Beauford. This article lists nine additional collections of archives that are relevant to Beauford's life and art.

The American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery hold two of Beauford's paintings, neither of which is currently on display. One is an undated abstraction - a gouache on paper that was donated to the museum. The other is Can Fire in the Park, dated 1946 and painted in oil on canvas. It was purchased by the museum.

Can Fire in the Park
(1946) Oil on canvas

In a brief biography of Beauford written by Lynda Roscoe Hartigan and formerly posted on the museum's Web site, the following description of this painting can be found:

In Can Fire in the Park, [SAAM 1989.23] anonymous men gather near a source of heat, light, and camaraderie. This disturbingly contemporary vignette conveys a legacy of deprivation linked not only to the Depression years after 1929 but also to the longstanding disenfranchisement of black Americans, portrayed here as social outcasts. At the lower left and upper right, objects that suggest street signs also function as arrows symbolically pointing the way up and out of desolation. Despite its sober subject,the scene crackles with energy, the culmination of Delaney's sharp pure colors, thickly applied paints, and taut, schematic patterning. Abandoning the precise realism of his early academic training, Delaney developed a lyrically expressive style that drew upon his love of musical rhythms and his improvisational use of color. Works such as Can Fire in the Park hover between representation and abstraction as that style evolved during the 1940s.

In another brief biography currently found on the Web site, Regenia A. Perry indicates that Beauford earned the title "dean of American Negro painters living abroad" during his Paris years.

Next week, I'll present the works held by the National Portrait Gallery.

(Article updated on October 22, 2017)