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, December 29, 2012

A Birthday Card for Beauford

Artist and singer Joseph Langley was one of the many people who attended the reception celebrating the laying of Beauford's tombstone in October 2010.  Joe created a wonderful video to capture the highlights of that event.

I asked Joe if he would be willing to create an artistic work in celebration of Beauford's birthday (December 30, 1901) and he immediately rose to the challenge.  Here is the painting that he created:

Portrait of Beauford Delaney
Joseph Langley
(2012) Acrylic and pencil on canvas

Click on the image to see the video that Joe created to present this work of art.


To learn more about Joe and his art and music, visit www.josephlangleymusic.com.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas from Les Amis de Beauford Delaney!

In 1971 and 1972, Beauford spent Christmas at the home of his dear friend James Baldwin in the fortified medieval village of Saint Paul de Vence.

Image from the Saint Paul de Vence Tourism Office

Because two of the last three blog posts have featured the story of the Beauford Delaney paintings bequeathed to Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries by Baldwin and recuperated from his Saint Paul de Vence home, I thought it appropriate to extend Christmas greetings to all of you with this image of the idyllic hilltop town.

Merry Christmas from
Les Amis de Beauford Delaney!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where to Find Beauford's Art: Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries - Part 3

I am pleased to present this multi-part article about Beauford's works at Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries in Atlanta, GA. Many thanks to Tina Dunkley and her assistant Cynthia Ham for providing the interview and images upon which this article is based.

The James Baldwin bequest to Clark Atlanta University contained the following paintings by Beauford:
  • Yellow Cypress, 1972, oil on canvas
  • Unknown Portrait (inscription: Saint Paul), 1971, oil on canvas
  • Portrait of James Baldwin*, 1971, oil on canvas
  • Man in Blue, 1972, oil on canvas
  • Abstraction: Yellow and Orange, 1972, watercolor
  • Village (Saint Paul de Vence), 1972, oil on canvas
  • Abstract: Yellow and Red, 1967, oil on canvas
Village (Saint Paul de Vence) is my personal favorite among these works.  It was shown originally shown in the 1973 Darthea Speyer solo exposition of his work and later shown during the solo exposition The Color Yellow mounted by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in 2002.

Village (Saint Paul de Vence)
(1972) Oil on canvas
Bequest of James Baldwin
Image courtesy of Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries

Beauford first went to Saint Paul de Vence in 1971, the year that his nephew Sam died.  Baldwin invited him there to help him deal with the emotional trauma resulting from Sam's death.  He invited Beauford to the property for Christmas that same year. 

Beauford would go to Saint Paul de Vence again in 1972, this time as a result of Richard A. Long finding him in fragile mental condition during Long's visit to France.  Beauford drew sketches of the town during this trip and created Village and other paintings upon his return to Paris.

In Part 4 of this article, read a personal view of several paintings from the Baldwin bequest.

*Some question whether the person depicted in this portrait is indeed Baldwin.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Where to Find Beauford's Art: Ink Miami Art Fair - Aaron Galleries

From December 6 through 9, Miami Beach, Florida is hosting the 11th edition of Art Basel, the most prestigious art show in the Americas. More than 260 leading galleries from North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa will take part, showcasing works by more than 2,000 artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Thanks (in part) to Aaron Galleries near Chicago, Beauford's work is represented at this prestigious show this year. Aaron Galleries is participating in Ink Miami Art Fair, a contemporary art fair which is unique among Miami’s fairs for its focus on contemporary works on paper by internationally renowned artists.

The gallery has selected two exceptional paintings by Beauford for display:

(1960) Color silk-screen; Edition:  29/36
19 1/4 x 17 inches   

Sollis Toucan 
(1963) Oil on canvas
Signed, dated and titled, on the stretcher
16 3/8 x 13 inches

They describe Sollis Toucan as "a little gem." It was previously owned by New York City artist Don Freeman*, who active was active during the 1930s and 1940s.

Aaron Galleries is showing works by the following artists at Ink:
  • Eldzier Cortor
  • Rashid Johnson
  • Charles White
  • Joseph Delaney
  • Beauford Delaney
  • Sam Gilliam
  • Wadsworth Jarell
  • Margaret Burroughs
  • Elizabeth Catlett
in Suite 165 at the Suites of Dorchester:

Suites of Dorchester 1850 Collins Avenue Miami Beach, FL 33139
The remaining show dates are as follows:

Saturday 10:00AM- 7:00 PM
Sunday 10:00AM- 3:00 PM
Patrick L. Albano
Aaron Galleries
2011 Tower Drive
Glenview, IL 60026
(847) 724-0660 Gallery
(312) 320-0660 Cell

* Freeman's son Roy also owned a painting called Sollis Toucan.  To read his story, click here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Where to Find Beauford's Art: Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries - Part 2

I am pleased to present Part 2 of this multi-part article about Beauford's works at Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries in Atlanta, GA. Many thanks to Tina Dunkley and her assistant Cynthia Ham for providing the interview and images upon which this article is based.

Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries
Image from CAUAG Web site

When the shipment arrived in Atlanta, Dunkley began the inventory process anew and was disappointed to find that only twenty-six (26) of the thirty-three (33) works had been sent. Only seven of the eleven Delaney paintings arrived, and some of these were different than the ones indicated on the inventory list.

The shipment contained the following paintings by Beauford:
  • Yellow Cypress, 1972, oil on canvas
  • Unknown Portrait (inscription: Saint Paul), 1971, oil on canvas
  • Portrait of James Baldwin*, 1971, oil on canvas
  • Man in Blue, 1972, oil on canvas
  • Abstraction: Yellow and Orange, 1972, watercolor
  • Village (Saint Paul de Vence), 1972, oil on canvas
  • Abstract: Yellow and Red, 1967, oil on canvas
None are on display at present.

During our interview, Dunkley emphatically stated that Beauford's works, as well as those of his brother, Joseph, are very important. Both Delaneys exhibited their paintings at the historic Atlanta University Art Annual Exhibition, which was founded by Hale Woodruff in 1942. Joseph Delaney won a cash award of $250 during the fifth annual exhibition in 1946 for a painting called East River. He participated in five shows in all (1942, 1943, 1946, 1947, and 1960).
Excerpt from the "School and College News" column
of The Crisis Magazine
June 1946

Beauford Delaney participated once in the Atlanta University Art Annuals in 1951, submitting an oil painting entitled Blue Harlem. Unfortunately, no measurements or images are available for this work.

Dunkley said it is important that CAUAG have works by both Delaneys in their collection for this reason. She does not recall if the galleries have ever hung their works in the same exhibit, but says that she plans to do so in the future. She likes the fact that the color "yellow" became a predominant theme in Beauford's work, and notes that yellow is the primary color used in most of his paintings in CAUAG's collection.

To learn more about CAUAG's historic art collections, click here.

In Part 3 of this article, learn more about the paintings.

*Some question whether the person depicted in this portrait is indeed Baldwin.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Where to Find Beauford's Art: Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries - Part 1

I am pleased to present this multi-part article about Beauford's works at Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries in Atlanta, GA. Many thanks to Tina Dunkley and her assistant Cynthia Ham for providing the interview and images upon which this article is based.

I recently had a long chat with Tina Dunkley about the seven Beauford Delaney works held by the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries (CAUAG).

Dunkley, who has directed the galleries since 1994 and is an artist in her own right, had quite an interesting tale to tell about the acquisition of these paintings. They were part of a bequest to the university made by one of Beauford's dearest friends, James Baldwin.

Dr. Richard A. Long informed CAUAG of the bequest at the time that Dunkley was in the midst of renovating the space in which the collections are now shown - the former reading room of the library in Trevor Arnett Hall. Long provided a list of the works to be given to the university, all of which were located at Baldwin's home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in southern France. Beauford spent a great deal of time with Baldwin and other friends at this property, and painted here as well.

Baldwin's Property at Saint Paul de Vence
Photos courtesy of Professor Francine Allen, Morehouse College

Dunkley began communicating with the attorney of the Baldwin estate about collecting the works in December 1994.

Because Baldwin's will was in probate and was being contested, Dunkley feared that the university might not be able to acquire the works that Baldwin intended it to have. She asked Avery Glize-Kane, the attorney for the estate, whether the art work was part of the contestation. Relieved to learn that the answer was no, she went to Saint-Paul-de-Vence to claim the items that were to be sent to the university. There were thirty-three (33) works on the list that Long provided. Among them were eleven paintings by Beauford. Other artists represented in the bequest included César, Arman, Paul Jenkins, and Henri Baviera.

As Dunkley went through the process of checking the inventory, she discovered that several paintings on the list were not at Baldwin's home. Glize-Kane could not account for what happened to them. Dunkley arranged for the shipment of the works that she could find and returned to the U.S.

In Part 2 of this article, learn what Dunkley found when the shipment arrived in Atlanta.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Beauford's Paris: Rue des Carmes

In looking for references to Thanksgiving in Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, I found a passage that talks about Beauford spending a great deal of time at the apartment of his friend Mary Painter in the 5th arrondissement.  Biographer David Leeming states that on most weekends between January and November 1956, Beauford and whomever else was staying at Beauford's Clamart residence would go to visit Painter at her "new and very grand apartment" on rue des Carmes (exact address not mentioned).  These people included James Baldwin and his lover Arnold, Bernard Hassell, and Richard Olney.   They enjoyed extravagant meals prepared by Painter and Olney, listened to jazz and blues, and drank lots of whisky.  They called these parties the "Saturday Night Functions" after the song of the same name.

The Pantheon viewed from rue des Carmes
© Discover Paris!

The final gathering at the Painter apartment took place on Thanksgiving Day 1956, after which Painter left Paris to return to the U.S.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"The Doom Music"

Beauford became very close to painter Charley Boggs, his wife Gita, and their son Gordon, soon after he moved to Paris in 1953.  He was a frequent visitor to their Montparnasse apartment and often dined with them there.  After dinner, they would listen to a wide variety of music ranging from gospel to classical.

Charley Boggs
Detail from a photo of Beauford, Charley, and Larry Calcagno in Venise in 1966

One of their favorite pieces was "Adagio in G-Minor for Strings and Organ," which they called "The Doom Music."  Often attributed (incorrectly) to Venetian composer Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni, it is a beautiful composition. To listen to it, click on the image above.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Plaque for Beauford: Update

Several weeks ago, I wrote about my intention to have a plaque to honor Beauford installed in Montparnasse.  This is a brief update on my progress.

A few weeks ago, I had an appointment with Danièle Pourtaud, the person in charge of patrimoine (heritage) in the 14th arrondissement.  Because she had never heard of Beauford, I spent a few minutes telling her about him and his life in Montparnasse.  I explained that with the exception of the few years that he lived in Clamart, Montparnasse had been his home.  I also told her that my first choice for the location of the plaque is on the façade of the Hôtel Lenox on rue Delambre.  Formerly called Hôtel des Ecoles, it is where Beauford lived for the majority of his first three years in Paris and is only a couple of minutes walk from his favorite cafés - Le Dôme and Le Select.

Hôtel Lenox (formerly Hôtel des Ecoles)
© Discover Paris!

Mme Pourtaud's response was quite encouraging. She told me the exact procedure to follow and said that as long as I was able to complete all the steps required, she would support my effort!

What do I, as president of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, need to do?  First, I must contact the owner of the building and obtain permission to place the plaque there.  To do so, I will need to create an initial communication that is sufficiently intriguing to gain an audience, at which point I will need to present my case.

Provided that I am successful, I then need to petition the City of Paris and fill out the appropriate form, which will include providing the text that will be on the plaque.  I simultaneously need to contact Mme Pourtaud to inform her of my progress.

Hôtel de Ville (Paris City Hall)
© Discover Paris!

After gaining approval from the City of Paris, Mme Pourtaud will put me in contact with companies that manufacture plaques so that I can request cost estimates.  I am free to contact other companies not on her list as well.

The next step will be to pay for the plaque.  At this point, I have no idea how much this might cost.  Another fundraiser may be required!

Finally, Les Amis de Beauford Delaney will arrange for the date and time for the plaque's placement on the building's façade.

If, by chance, I am not successful in convincing the owners of the Hôtel Lenox to agree to have the plaque placed on the hotel's façade, then I'll need to find another suitable place and begin the process again.

Though the course of action is straightforward, it risks being very lengthy.  I will keep you posted!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Art and Desire

Art and Desire
re-Searching Beauford Delaney: Part Four

EL Kornegay Jr., Ph.D.

In Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, David Leeming opens the unusual door to what might be considered the sexual life of Beauford Delaney. According to James Baldwin, this lyric about the “unusual door” comes from a song “Beauford would often sing.”[1] This unusual door signals at least two aspects of who Beauford Delaney is: a “…living exemplar of a black man as functioning, self-supporting artist” and according to Leeming, a homosexual. Beauford was a Negro artist and a homosexual.[2] Yet, both are constrained by the former, with Beauford’s art having limitations in the world of whiteness and his sexuality having limitations in the world of blackness.

Both comprise a double-edged sword of desire with the sharp blade of race and sexuality cutting both ways. The issue of race is a traceable event; sexuality is a bit more elusive, for the latter requires the willingness of lovers to speak and encounters to be exposed. Race plays itself out in the open; sex, most often behind closed doors. How can we account for these acts, which most often remain sealed behind a wall of silence? How do we add the dimension of physical intimacy to our beloved Beauford in ways that celebrate his manhood and his desire to love and be loved?

Leeming asks if Beauford’s paintings say anything about his racial or sexual history. I say his painting say something about both. This is a co-constituted viewpoint, one in which race and sexuality are combined in a colorful commentary of blended pastels, vividly textured swirls, and dimensioned landscapes where images of desire have been captured.

The joy and pain of a double-edged life that has been raced and sexed is wrapped up in a climatic crescendo of brushstrokes distilled on canvas where truth lies somewhere between the painted images we see and the reasons for their being that we cannot. It is in this space where the answer to the question concerning Beauford’s sexual selfhood might be found.

Leeming writes that some friends of Beauford’s claim that he “did not concern himself with racial or sexual issues” and “that his whole life was his painting.” Yet we find hints of a sexual pulse in Dark Rapture (1941); hidden desire roams under the moonlit streets and city lights of Greenwich Village (1945), in the interplay of couples in the light of day in Washington Square (1952), and in the brightly colored celebration of the erect phallus set between testicular orbs in Sun and Moon (1970). Beauford subtlety expresses his racial and sexual self in certain of his paintings; he reveals what he wants us to see privately, not publicly.

Dark Rapture
(1941) Oil on canvas
Private collection

Leeming mentions that Delaney was a very private man and was careful never to blur the lines between eroticism and friendship, between race and sex. However, Beauford does integrate these themes into his work and is quite flamboyant in his celebration of human eroticism in both his love for the blues and its reflection in his art. There is a voyeuristic quality to his paintings; many of his subjects seem not to see him and therefore do not necessarily see his desire for them. He seems to be an unknown admirer framing the silhouette of someone he finds beautiful up close (in Jean Genet [1972], Genet seems to emerge from a thicket after a private encounter) or admires from afar (in Rosa Parks [1970], the specter of a perpendicular bulge adorns a random dark figure in the background of the painting). The angles in his works belie coyness, a shyness only revealed when you catch the glance of an admirer in the corner of your eye.

Jean Genet
(1972) Oil on canvas
Private collection

I appreciate Leeming’s response to the questions surrounding Delaney’s racial and sexual identity. Along with black religion, they are important aspects shaping Beauford’s life and work. However, I find that Beauford’s desire – to resist racial and sexual limitations – is directly tied to and bound up in his art. There is no need to speculate about either: we only have to look at what he painted and left behind to get a glimpse of who, what, and how he loved. It is an unusual door to open, but once you have entered, the understanding of the many dimensions of Beauford’s desire begins to emerge.

[1] I have not been able to trace the anecdotal reference by Baldwin of this lyric often sung by Beauford. However, I do understand this is possibly an example of a folk “spiritual” indicative of the black church tradition both men shared and one which Baldwin very often references. James Baldwin, “The Price of the Ticket”, ed. Toni Morrison. Collected Essays.(New York: Library of America, 1998), 830.
[2] David Leeming, James Baldwin: A Biography, (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1994), 32.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beauford at the Fall 2012 African-American Fine Art Auction

Swann Galleries held its semi-annual African-American Fine Art auction on Thursday, 18 October 2012.  Among the 154 works offered for sale were two Beauford Delaney paintings. The first (Lot 67) is a vibrantly multi-colored abstract:

 Untitled (Rainbow Abstraction)
(1962) Watercolor and gouache on paper
Photo courtesy of Swann Galleries

It measures 495 x 654 mm / 19.5 x 25.75 inches and is signed and dated in ink in the lower right corner.  It comes from a private New York collection.

The estimated sale price for this painting was $10,000-15,000.  

The second painting (Lot 68) is an unusual abstract dominated by the color pink:

Untitled (Pink Abstract)
(1964) Watercolor on Arches paper
Photo courtesy of Swann Galleries

It measures 572 x 394 mm / 22.5 x 15.5 inches and is signed, inscribed "Paris," and dated "July 1964" in blue ink in the lower right corner.

This piece originates from the collection of Al Hirschfeld, a friend and patron of Beauford who partly funded Beauford's first trip to Paris.  It was acquired by Phillipe Briet in 1989, who gave it to a dear friend in 1991.

The estimated sale price for this work was $8,000-12,000.

Untitled (Pink Abstract) sold for $8,400, inclusive of Buyer's Premium.* Untitled (Rainbow Abstract) was not purchased during the auction.

I spoke briefly with Nigel Freeman, director of Swann's African-American Fine Art auction, about this.  He indicated that each work put up for auction has an unpublicized reserve price, below which the work will not sell.  Sometimes, when more than one work by an artist is being auctioned during a given sale, buyers focus more attention on acquiring a particular one.  This may result in insufficient bidding on the other works so that their reserve price is not met.

This may have been what occurred during Thursday's sale.

*Buyer's Premium - the fee that the auction house charges in addition to the actual price of the painting.  Swann Galleries charges 20% of the sale price as a premium. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Christie's Paris Auctions Two Delaney Paintings

On October 10, 2012, Christie's Paris held an auction entitled Rendez-vous - Intérieurs Contemporains (Rendezvous - Contemporary Interiors).  Among the works for sale were two abstract Beauford Delaney paintings.

The first untitled work is an aquarelle and gouache on paper.  It was Lot 70 at the sale.

(1962) Watercolor and gouache on paper
© Christie's Images

It is signed and dated "Beauford Delaney 1962 Paris" in the bottom right corner.

This painting sold for 3500 euros (roughly $4500).

The second work (Lot 71) is a watercolor on paper.

(1961) Watercolor on paper
© Christie's Images

It is signed and dated "Beauford Delaney 61. San Telmo Mallorca" in the bottom right corner.

It also sold for 3500 euros (roughly $4500).

Both paintings came from a private collection and were authenticated for the auction by Sylvain Briet.  Prices represent the hammer price (the price at which the work sells at auction) plus the buyer's premium.

Christie's sold many of Beauford's paintings in 2010 during its auction of the Darthea Speyer Collection.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Beauford in Blue: Story of a Portrait

Shawn Olszewski is a self-taught artist who has painted professionally for the past ten years.  He created this beautiful portrait of Beauford:

Beauford Delaney 
(2010)  Oil bar and oil pastel on canvas 
Shawn Olszewski

I contacted him to ask him why.  He granted me this interview.

Les Amis:  How did you come to learn about Beauford Delaney?

S.O.:  I came to expressionism on my own but when I started getting noticed I started researching
other expressionists more. When I first saw Delaney's portrait of James Baldwin I was hooked.

Les Amis:  Which portrait of Baldwin did you first see:

S.O.:  The one that Delaney painted in 1945*.

Les Amis:  How familiar are you with Beauford's work?
S.O.:  I've never had the opportunity to see a work in person, I'm not quite sure how I will handle it
when I do. So all of my exposure to him has been through books and the Internet.

Les Amis:  What do you like about it?
S.O.:  I'm most intrigued by push/pull of the browns and ochers with the vividly intense colors. I appreciate
that they switch roles from one painting to the next. The portraiture is just stunning.

Les Amis:  What inspired you to paint Beauford's portrait?
S.O.:  I realized that I had been evangelizing Beauford for years to anyone that would listen but that I'd
never attempted to paint him. I felt I was doing myself a disservice by not attempting it.

Les Amis:  Tell us more about "evangelizing Beauford."
S.O.: I definitely talk about Beauford to other artists.  As you know, his story is one about race, mental health, and sexuality also.  So in our ongoing fight for equality in the U.S., I have many opportunities to talk with people of all disciplines about Mr. Delaney, whom I believe to be very much underrated due to these "isms" and stigmas.

Les Amis:  Were you inspired by Beauford's painting style when you did his portrait?
S.O.:  I've been inspired by his style from first seeing his work. I try not to step on his style but
I think a little bit of him should be obvious in all my portraiture.

Les Amis:  Why did you select the colors that you used for the painting?
S.O.:  I felt they are the colors that we have in common. Yellow ocher especially is very important in my portraits. The blue is more hopeful. We've both had very turbulent lives; the blue is choosing to ignore some of that.

To view Olszewski's art, visit http://www.etsy.com/shop/OlszewskiArt.

* Beauford's 1945 portrait of James Baldwin is owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Where to Find Beauford's Art: Hampton University Museum

The Hampton University Museum holds the following painting by Beauford:

Untitled Abstract, 1968
13” x 18”
Oil on canvas
Museum Acquisition Fund
Collection of the Hampton University Museum
Hampton, VA

It is currently displayed in the Renaissance and Beyond Gallery, which is located on the second floor.

Catherine St. John, Doctor of Arts in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Liberal Arts at Berkeley College in Woodland Park, New Jersey, provided the following commentary on the painting and on Beauford's art as a cultural entity.
Beauford Delaney: A Unique and Most Necessary Artistic Voice

Painting was an act of faith for Beauford Delaney (1901-1979). As both actual presence and spiritual transcendence, the finite limits of his paintings open up to an abstract language grounded by both the eye and by intuition. His painted surfaces transform different sensations of light on to canvas. He creates illusions of inwardly expanding space.

It is to Delaney’s abstractions that we turn for his greatest achievements. Involved in the turbulent and lively demi-monde of post-war Paris, it was here that he began his all-over paintings with their fields of color, their fluid swirls of closely valued tonal gradations. At the service of the effects of light on form, these loosely connected patches of color exhibit variations of touch in which the entire surface functions as something greater than its parts.

His Untitled Abstract, 1968, 13x18-inch rhythmic oil on canvas in the collection of the Hampton University Museum is created out of his preferred color yellow, not color in a mediating role as something else, but as a means. Beauford Delaney had a life-long involvement with light and color. The concreteness of color rather than its imitative potential is the subject. We see the materiality of paint with little tonal difference of color. All elements seem to be interdependent and our focus is dispersed. It is an assured painting of spontaneous feeling and the love of the creative process.

In Untitled we are given passages of yellow, abstractions of the material world dissolving into pure color and light. In his book Amazing Grace: a Life of Beauford Delaney, his biographer David Leeming notes Beauford’s celebration of the color yellow as the substance of light in relation to spirit. His concern with the play of light and its rather specific qualities make his painted surfaces a place of spiritual significance. His attraction to the color of light is underscored in the titles of his paintings such as Moving Sunlight, Yellow Light Swirling, and Yellow Light.

Delaney favored more the dimensions of easel painting and while Untitled may seem to be a modest work, it gives presence to an important voice in the shaping of American art. This work reflects larger cultural and artistic issues.

Beauford Delaney’s art is an art of originality, autonomy and authenticity. It plays an intrinsic part in the formal language of modernism and exemplifies the complexity and quality of American culture. In the pivotal moment when the distinctly American aesthetic Abstract Expressionism had become canonical, Delaney was steadfast in pursuing the same visual issues as the more recognized painters like Pollock, de Kooning, and Motherwell. Whether stylistically aligned with the dominant strains of Abstract Expressionism or with contemporary French art, his color allusions are compatible with flatness, one of the defining criteria of modernism, and his dissolving shapes and colors so effectively held together give a sense of coherence to the exploration of abstract relational possibilities.

With Beauford Delaney, one experiences a triumph of styles and through his giving presence, he has played an intrinsic part in the cultural phenomenon we call art. His art is a form for the act of painting itself. Delaney believed that there is only one art and it belongs to every one. Ultimately it is to the art that we must turn.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Errol Sawyer’s Photographic Portrait of Beauford

“Quantum.” This is one of the words that photographer Errol Sawyer used to describe Beauford during our recent interview.

Errol Sawyer (http://www.errolsawyer.com) is a documentary and fine arts photographer who currently lives in Amsterdam. His photographic portrait of Beauford is the most compelling one that I have ever seen.

Beauford Delaney
Rue Guilleminot
France 1973
© Errol Sawyer

Sawyer and Beauford were introduced in 1973 by a Danish woman who lived in the 14th arrondissement. Sawyer believes she may have been Beauford’s neighbor. She was very excited about making the introduction and hoped that the two men would build a relationship, perhaps because they were both African-American and both artists. Sawyer regrets that this did not happen – he says that he was 29 years old at the time and “didn’t know anything.” At that time he did not realize the value of maintaining contact with Beauford.

Sawyer only met Beauford twice, yet he was inspired to photograph him. He describes Beauford as being “like a boy – youthful, exuberant…” He never saw Beauford in a state of incoherence and said that Beauford was able to articulate his thoughts clearly whenever they spoke. But he also said that he thought Beauford operated on another plane of existence; that he was “in another zone.” He felt that Beauford was a “beautiful” human being.

The photo shoot took place in front of Sawyer’s atelier on rue Guilleminot in the 14th arrondissement, just one street away from Beauford’s studio on rue Vercingétorix. But he never visited Beauford’s studio and did not know Beauford’s work at the time he took the photo. He said that he wanted to photograph Beauford because he looked interesting and was very comfortable in his skin:

I was drawn to him. I used a 50 mm lens camera to take the portrait. He was not bothered by the camera, not put off by it, not intimidated by it.

Sawyer traveled to Paris with his son Victor a few weeks ago and we returned to rue Guilleminot. The entire neighborhood was being razed and rebuilt at around the time that Beauford was committed to Sainte-Anne’s in the late 70s, and Sawyer recognized almost nothing from the time that he lived in the neighborhood. Though the building where his studio was located no longer exists, he showed me approximately where he took the photograph of Beauford. I photographed him and Victor at that spot.

Victor and Errol Sawyer on rue Guilleminot
© Discover Paris!

We then walked over to the place where Beauford’s building once stood. Sawyer recognized the church Notre Dame du Travail but said that everything else had changed from the time that he lived in Paris (1971-78). He again lamented that he had no idea he and Beauford were living so close together and that he did not get to know Beauford during those years.

I asked Sawyer what effect Beauford has had on his life. He responded:

He is speaking to me as I look at his portrait. He’s saying to me “Keep the faith.” He was a romantic and an idealist. Some of the things that he had to live through drove him mad. The same happened to van Gogh. Beauford is as present now as he was then. He’s not dead.

Those in Paris can view three of Sawyer’s works, including his portrait of Beauford, from his book entitled City Mosaic (2010) at the Obama’s America exposition at Dorothy’s Gallery:

Dorothy’s Gallery – American Center for the Arts
27, rue Keller
75011 Paris
Telephone: 01 43 57 08 51
Internet: http://dorothysgallery.com/art/
Metro: Bastille (Lines 1, 5, and 8), Voltaire (Line 9)
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday from 1 PM to 7 PM, Tuesday and Sunday from 4 PM to 7 PM

A limited number of copies of City Mosaic are available for purchase at the gallery as well.

The exposition runs from September 14 through November 10, 2012.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I Saw Beauford Delaney Today - Part 2

Last week, I brought you Part 1 of an article about artist Maureen Kelleher and her passion for James Baldwin and Beauford Delaney. Part 2 is below.


Kelleher admits that she knows little about Beauford other than his relationship with Baldwin. She knows very little about the extent of his oeuvre, but she likes the boldness, colors, and big strokes that Beauford was so fond of using. She is familiar with only one of the portraits that Beauford painted of Baldwin – the one that is owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art:

It’s the only one I know about, and I love it. It is beautiful. Delaney captured Baldwin’s grace and vulnerability. And beautiful colors, style. I feel/see strength in Delaney’s technique.

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

Kelleher used this painting as the inspiration for Note Board, the companion piece for I Saw Beauford Delaney Today.

Artist’s note board for: I Saw Beauford Delaney Today
Maureen Kelleher
(2008) Mixed Media
Photo courtesy of Maureen Kelleher

Maureen relates the story of the creation of Note Board as follows:

A woman I met on the train, [we had time to talk; the train died on the tracks, and we were stuck outside The Bronx for a couple hours, then we had to get on another train they sent to ‘rescue us”] -- unexpectedly sent me a large poster. The poster advertised a show of Beauford’s work at a museum in Philadelphia, (I think).

She remembered our talking about Baldwin, so (how wonderful for me!) she sent me the poster. When I saw the poster, and, of course, Delaney’s painting of Baldwin, I thought of using the painting for something in my work. I think I had the piece about Delaney and Baldwin done when I received the poster. Then I decided to make the accompanying note board. I knew I wanted to include Delaney’s painting of Baldwin, somehow, in my work on Baldwin. It makes total sense (to me!) that the piece, Delaney’s painting, would be included in my piece about Baldwin & Delaney’s friendship. Delaney’s painting of Baldwin is the most perfect representation of their friendship and friendship is the theme of my piece, I SAW BEAUFORD DELANEY TODAY.

Of course, Baldwin probably wrote about Delaney, but I’ve yet to get to that project and research that (so much to do! so little time!).

Clearly, each artist memorialized the friendship in his own medium. Wonderful.

To view Maureen Kelleher’s works, visit her Web sites at
www.mkelleherart(dot)com and www.beanartbean(dot)com. To watch her video, click here: Maureen Kelleher Studio Visit.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I Saw Beauford Delaney Today - Part 1

In a recent Google search on Beauford, I came across a video that features the work of an artist named Maureen Kelleher. Driven by her passion for James Baldwin, she created two works that illustrate the special relationship that Baldwin and Beauford had. I bring you these works and the story behind them in a two-part article. Part 1 is below.


Maureen Kelleher discovered James Baldwin while riding out a hurricane in New Orleans in 2000 (she thinks the hurricane was named “Georges.”) She passed the time waiting for the storm by reading David Leeming’s James Baldwin, A Biography, which represented her first exposure to Baldwin. Upon reading the passage about Baldwin advising his brother “Lover” on how to handle a racist, white, superior officer in the army, she remembered an event from her adolescence that made her realize that her father was the “exact description of the racist described in the Baldwin brothers’ exchange.” At that moment, she knew that Baldwin’s advice to “Lover” was “right on the money, honest, and accurate.” She also knew that she needed to resolve the juxtaposition of the two positions – that of Baldwin and that of her father – in her mind.

When the threat of the storm passed, she turned to art as a means of working out this conflict. She created her first works from wood and paint, and used words as a core part of the pieces that released the “creativity floodgate” within her that makes her the artist she is today. From a person who hated art and avoided it with a passion, she turned into a person whose life revolves around art.

I Saw Beauford Delaney Today
Maureen Kelleher
(2008) Mixed Media
Photo courtesy of Maureen Kelleher

Kelleher's work entitled I Saw Beauford Delaney Today is composed of mixed media: wood, painting, engraving, images, and wire on wood. Two photographs in the Leeming biography of Baldwin inspired her to create it – one of Baldwin, Beauford, and Lucien Happersberger walking down the street in Paris, and the other of Baldwin and Beauford at Sainte-Anne’s Hospital. In the first photo, all three subjects are nattily dressed and looking happy. In the second, Beauford is a patient at Sainte-Anne’s and is dressed in a bathrobe. Baldwin is dressed in street clothes and is visiting Beauford.

Kelleher says that the second photo was the true inspiration for her work:

My mother was extremely mentally ill; she had a nervous breakdown, every year of my life, until the time of her death in 1994, so I’ve been in many state hospitals, locked wards, and lots of time spent there, visiting with my mom, meetings lots and lots of doctors and nurses, and all the other patients in the day room, endless smoking, visiting, playing cards, for my entire life. So I really, really “connect” with this photo of Baldwin “coming to the aid” of his mentally ill friend, in the hospital…So sweet and so personal. The big famous American writer, and he’s taking the time to help his dear friend in need, another artist, the American painter, Beauford Delaney.

A trip to The Village (Greenwich Village) was the inspiration for the name of the piece. Kelleher was excited to move to the NYC area in 2005 when she evacuated New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina. She was thrilled that she could finally go to the places that Baldwin and Beauford frequented and wanted to find where Beauford lived in the Village because she wanted to see where Baldwin first met his dear friend and mentor. She went to 181 Greene Street (the address she had found in Leeming’s biography of Baldwin) and was disappointed to find NYU dormitories at the site.

During that trek, she saw a middle-aged African-American man on the street and said to herself “That could be Beauford Delaney, if this were 1936.” She said that the phrase “I just saw Beauford Delaney” went through her head. She felt that she was “in history’s footsteps” and that she “[just] saw Beauford Delaney” on the street corner in New York City. That’s how she got the title for her piece.

To view Maureen Kelleher’s works, visit her Web sites at
www.mkelleherart(dot)com and www.beanartbean(dot)com. To watch her video, click here: Maureen Kelleher Studio Visit.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Beauford's Paris: Gare Saint-Lazare

The last leg of Beauford's first journey to Paris, which took place roughly 59 years ago, was by train. That train's destination was the Gare Saint-Lazare in the 9th arrondissement. Herb Gentry and Bob Blackburn met him at the station and took him to Montparnasse, where he began his life as an expatriate.

One of Beauford's favorite artists, Claude Monet, captured multiple images of Saint-Lazare station on canvas. A few of them are presented below.

Saint-Lazare Station: Arrival of a train
Claude Monet
(1877) Oil on canvas
Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, USA

The Gare Saint-Lazare
Claude Monet
(1877) Oil on canvas
National Gallery, London

Saint-Lazare Station, The Signals
Claude Monet
(1877) Oil on canvas
Niedersachsische Landesmuseum, Hannover

The painting at the Hannover museum calls to mind Beauford's fondness of representing street lamps in paintings from his New York days:

Greenwich Village
Beauford Delaney
(1945) Oil on canvas
Photo by Manu Sasoonian, from Amazing Grace

Washington Square
Beauford Delaney
(1948) Oil on canvas
Image from Pomegranate Note Card

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Race, Society, and Canvas: The Amazing Grace of Beauford Delaney

By now, E.L. Kornegay, Jr. needs no introduction to regular readers of this blog. His articles provide us with fresh insight into Beauford's life and art. Today he brings us Part Three of "re-Searching Beauford Delaney."


Race, Society, and Canvas: The Amazing Grace of Beauford Delaney
re-Searching Beauford Delaney: part three
E. L. Kornegay Jr., Ph.D.

One of the things most underappreciated about the artistry of Beauford Delaney is the effort expended by Beauford and the cost exacted from him to beat back the social dross of a society bent and broken apart by racism. Beauford did not necessarily paint what he lived – he painted his resistant hope for a world that was yet to exist. Whether he ever realized that it was moving in the direction of his paintings is somewhat of a mystery. One thing that I do know is that living in the tension of racism and a society that failed to embrace his blackness, his masculinity, thwarted his ability to love openly and challenged the hope of his soul. This drove him out of America and, dare I say, out of his mind.

What Beauford left behind for us is amazing. In spite of depression and oppression he was able to leave a message on canvas of a world above the one in which he existed. It is by grace that he shaped a way for the images of a world envisioned in his mind to find their way onto the serene landscape of his canvas.

Race and racism have broken many people and communities of color. This was Beauford’s experience. The benevolence shown by white sponsors and A-list associations with entertainers and artists afforded him little relief from the racist conundrum faced by the exceptional Negro. Beauford was exceptional, but still Negro.

Against this backdrop, biographer David Leeming draws us a picture of the life and work of Beauford Delaney. To Leeming’s credit, Amazing Grace is a rich accounting of a black artist striving to live in the spirit of his gift in a world that sought to diminish his worth. The text is as much a chronicle of the growing pains of a nation and humanity as it is a singular tale of Beauford’s dogged determination to be an artist. This is what made Beauford the human being that he was – he was graced with the power to capture not what he saw with his natural eye, but what he saw with his spirit. However, Amazing Grace is limited by the disconnection between its author and a social context that was viewed, but not necessarily lived.

Those of us who have experienced the racism and bigotry of American society firsthand share in the knowledge of how it divides the mind and seeks separation of body and soul, leaving the latter to fend for itself. Living is a battle on multiple fronts, with the lack of relief or safety often ending in wonderful gifts and unrivaled beauty being lost in various forms of addiction – or, in the case of Beauford, a formal withdrawal from deliberating the troubles of this world.

The toil, the never ending of toil of life, can cause the best of us to lose balance. Beauford slipped in and out this world and sanity as he toiled. Eventually he became too tired to fight, finally giving in, but not before leaving his gift intact on canvas.

Leeming reminds his readers over and over again of the power of Beauford’s spirit and the sacredness of his gift. The creation of art was Beauford’s passion: it was a full cup and a heavy, yet wondrous cross he bore at all costs. He fulfilled his purpose. His spirit did not return vanquished to the eternal – it accomplished what it was sent here to do.

Beauford left it to the world to ponder the “what if” of his mental state. The world was not meant to be this hard – he knew it even if those around him failed to recognize that fact. In a chilling way, it seems that he left long before his physical body breathed its last breath. What remained, still physically warm but drained of spiritual vitality, reminds us of how strong the will of a body remains long after the fight has ended.

When I read about Beauford, I am reminded of the lives of the multitude of persons who have passed into history without a whisper. Anytime I look on the dark face of a man or woman, hardened and scarred by the raging world around them, left mumbling, begging with their backs against a dirty wall sitting on a bustling, uncaring city sidewalk, I see Beauford. It was from a similar position that he painted the wonderful works we now laud. Who he was and what he saw are one and the same – they create a complete picture. It is amazing that he graced us with the world we hope for on canvas and in doing so created a way to escape, however momentarily, the madness knocking at our door.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Beauford and Emery: The Delaney Brothers at Notre Dame Cathedral

In Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, David A. Leeming writes that "Beauford always had a religious streak. He loved visiting the great cathedrals - Chartres and Notre Dame especially - not only for aesthetic purposes but because he envied the order and constancy he saw them as representing."

Beauford received a visit from his brother Emery, sister-in-law Gertrude, and niece Imogene in August 1955. On the first Sunday of their visit, Beauford and Emery attended mass at Notre Dame Cathedral. Emery also found the church appealing and described his experience as "heart-thrilling" in a letter to Joe Delaney (Beauford and Emery's brother).

Anyone seeing the cathedral cannot fail to be impressed by it. Here I share several photos that will give you an idea of why this church has inspired so many.

Notre Dame Viewed from the Left Bank
© Discover Paris!

Rear of Notre Dame Cathedral
Creative Commons Attribution: Kiwiboy121

Organ at Notre Dame Cathedral
Creative Commons Attribution: Eric Chan

Nicolas Coustou
1712-28 Marble
© Discover Paris!

Rose from Garden behind Notre Dame Cathedral
Creative Commons Attribution: Charlesblack

View of the city from Notre Dame Cathedral
© Discover Paris!

For more stunning and unusual photos of the cathedral, click here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Plaque for Beauford

For almost a year, I have been mulling over the possibility of having a plaque dedicated to Beauford affixed to the façade of a building in Paris. There are already three plaques in Paris that honor African Americans - one for Richard Wright (6th arrondissement), one for Louis Armstrong* (9th arrondissement), and one for Carole Denise Fredericks (18th arrondissement). I think it would be fitting for Beauford's plaque to be hung in the 14th arrondissement - in Montparnasse - since this is the area of Paris that he called home for most of his years in France.

Louis Armstrong plaque
© Discover Paris!
*Beauford knew and sketched Armstrong during Beauford's "New York Years."

Inspired by the recent inauguration of the Fredericks plaque, I asked Carole's sister, Connie Fredericks-Malone, how she went about obtaining the various permissions required to have Carole's plaque installed. As I expected, she told me that the path was long and tortuous and that much time and patience was required. But surprisingly, the number of steps required is small.

Mairie of the 14th Arrondissement
© Discover Paris!

In late July, on behalf of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, I took the first steps down the road to making Beauford's plaque a reality. I visited the mairie (town hall) of the 14th arrondissement and asked for the name of the person I needed to contact to submit my request. I was given a form to complete and a document showing the name and photo of the official who will address my inquiry. I completed the form and mailed it in.

Given that it is August and almost all self-respecting Parisians have vacated the city, I do not expect to hear anything from this official until the rentrée - the return from summer vacation. I will publish updates on the Les Amis blog as things progress.

Wish us luck!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Beauford and Dizzy Gillespie

Beauford counted Dizzy Gillespie among his friends. He was excited about seeing Gillespie perform at a "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concert at the Alhambra in June 1958. Artists Ray Brown, Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins, Max Bennett, Herb Elis, Sonny Stitt, Roy Eldridge, Gus Johnson, Lou Levy, Pete Johnson, and Joe Turner were all part of the show.

Five of these artists can be seen playing together in the video below. The song is Gillespie's "Blues after Dark," recorded in 1958. Click on the image to watch!

Gillespie played in Paris frequently during Beauford's Paris years and regaled audiences at famous theaters such as the Olympia and the Salle Pleyel.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tending Beauford's Gravesite

Thursday was an absolutely gorgeous day in Paris, so my husband Tom and I took the opportunity to visit Beauford's gravesite. Because the finishing touches were being placed on his tombstone in July / August 2010, our visit represented an anniversary of sorts (see the sidebar for before and after photos).

I was pleased to see that the 86th Division had been recently cleared of overgrowing vegetation. The gravestone itself is in impeccable condition - all that I needed to do was clear a few stray pebbles and stones, remove soil and debris from beneath the ceramic flower arrangement, spray it, and wipe it down.

Tending the gravesite
© Discover Paris!

The money for renewal of the gravesite concession is once again due, but neither I nor Les Amis de Beauford Delaney can submit payment before Spring 2013. This date represents the expiration of the grace period during which a Delaney family member or a legal representative of Beauford's estate can come forward to renew the concession or make other arrangements for Beauford.

In the interim, I am comforted to know that the stone that Les Amis and so many contributors worked to have placed at the grave is as handsome and befitting of Beauford's dignity and spirit as the day it was laid.