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, 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 Vercing√©torix. 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