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, March 30, 2013

Beauford at the MRG Chelsea Inaugural Expo

The Michael Rosenfeld Gallery (MRG) holds the largest number of Beauford's paintings among galleries today. It has been and continues to be a great friend of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney. I am taking this opportunity to publicly thank them for their support!

MRG recently relocated to Chelsea after operating for over 20 years at 24 West 57th Street in midtown Manhattan. Beauford's Untitled (Greene Street) was hung by the gallery as part of the inaugural exposition.

Untitled (Greene Street)
(1950) Oil on canvas
47" x 36 1/2"
signed and dated lower left: B. Delaney. 1950
© Estate of Beauford Delaney, by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator

This work was part of the African American Art Calendar 2011, created by MRG and published by Pomegranate Press in Petaluma, CA, in which it was the illustration for the month of October. It was shown at INsite/INchelsea: The Inaugural Exhibition for MRG from December 18, 2012-March 9, 2013.

Prior to the gallery's acquisition of this work, it was owned by Clarke Gallery in Mamaroneck, NY. Clarke Gallery obtained it from a private collection, the owner of which obtained it from Beauford.

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery
100 11th Avenue at 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Telephone: 212-247-0082
Internet: http://www.michaelrosenfeldart.com

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sedat Pakay's Tribute to Beauford

Sedat Pakay is a Turkish photographer and filmmaker who was a great friend of James Baldwin. He met Beauford in Istanbul during the summer of 1966 when Beauford first visited Baldwin's home in the Rumeli Hisarı quarter1 of the city.

Rumeli Hisarı Waterfront (2007)
Image from Wikipedia Commons

Pakay graciously granted me the following interview about his encounters with Beauford:

Les Amis: What was your first impression of Beauford and how did this change over time (if it did at all)?

Sedat Pakay: Upon arrival to Istanbul he looked very haggard and exhausted after the long arduous journey from Paris2. Within few days, in the company of James Baldwin who adored him, and with help from Black Sea breezes that gently swept by the stone porch where he would sit and sketch daily, he relaxed and looked very radiant and gratified. His chair would almost be placed next to the Bosphorus. Often, I would catch him in contemplative mood watching waves and the sail boats in between his sketching -- on small notepads with colored markers.

Later during the summer, he looked very content -- free from the pressures of living in a big city; this quiet living reflected its joy on his angelic face. He was in a loving environment, working without interruption. He was truly happy, and Jimmy took excellent care of him.

Les Amis: David Leeming writes that Beauford "became an object of veneration among our Turkish friends, who would come to him each afternoon as to a wise guru." Were you one of these friends?

Sedat Pakay: In the Turkish culture elderly people are respected and addressed in words of veneration. I always sought advice of older men and women in my family to resolve personal issues, with expectations that they would have the answers. BD was not any different. I would sit by him and listen to him. If one knows how to listen, words of a wise, experienced person are invaluable.

Les Amis: Did you consider Beauford to be wise?

Sedat Pakay: I did consider him wise. At that point (age 21) I knew very little about his life experience. As I read and heard of his painful past, my respect for the man grew. He was wise, benevolent, and generous. A small sketch he gifted me is a prize possession.

Les Amis: What inspired you to call him "Uncle Beauford"?

Sedat Pakay: I called him "Uncle Beauford" in conforming with Turkish cultural traditions. All old cultures revere their elderly and serve them to make them feel comfortable in their later years. In this tradition, addressing one's senior with words of respect, i.e. "uncle," "aunt," etc. is very proper.

James Baldwin with painter Beauford Delaney
Photograph by Sedat Pakay @1966
reproduced with the permission of the photographer

Les Amis: Regarding the photos that you took of Beauford with Baldwin and singer Bertice Reading in Baldwin's apartment, what was the occasion for this gathering?

Sedat Pakay: It was an afternoon visit by Bertice and her children -- a daughter in her teens, and a baby boy she and her husband adopted in Istanbul. It was a social visit, you know, talk of memories, old gossip, jokes, lots of laughs.

Les Amis: Did Beauford inspire you as a photographic subject?

Sedat Pakay: Faces inspire me as subjects for my photographs. You might say that "I collect faces". It was difficult to capture BD photographically because he would sit by the Bosphorus in a contemplative mood and would not even move a finger. Only when visitors arrived, and the house would come alive did one see him socializing, playing with friends' children, carrying on a quiet conversation.

Les Amis: Did you ever film him?

Sedat Pakay: I never filmed him. I started making films in 1967-68 when I was doing my Masters at Yale Art School.

Les Amis: What is your fondest memory of Beauford?

Sedat Pakay: My fondest memory of Beauford is his stoic disposition, at peace with himself while he was involved in producing his art. As I reflect on it now I realize how much I admired an artist so dedicated to his work which is very lyrical visually, while he was fighting with his demons day in and day out.

1The Rumeli Hisarı quarter takes its name from a majestic fortress built by Mehmet the Conqueror at the narrowest part of the Bosphorus River on the European side of the city. In his biography Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, David Leeming states that Beauford often "did watercolors of the hills of Asia across the straits" during his stay with Baldwin.

2David Leeming vividly recounts the details of the journey in Amazing Grace.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Beauford Pastiche - March 2013

I occasionally surf the Web and browse the Leeming biography Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney to look for tidbits of information about Beauford that will bring his life into sharper focus for me and the readers of this blog. I have grouped three interesting items as an information "pastiche" to share with you today.

  • After having lived in New York City for ten years, Beauford undertook his first journey back to his hometown of Knoxville in March 1950. He took the train and recorded his thoughts about the trip in his journal. Ever a lover of gospel music and spirituals, he mentioned that a Mahalia Jackson song - "I'm glad salvation is free" - came to mind as he went farther south. He also noted that he stayed awake the entire night of the journey.

Listen to Mahalia Jackson sing "I'm glad salvation is free" by clicking on the image below.

  • On a Web page that features the genealogy of the Sicilian and American Manfredi, Percoco, Marino, and Giangrasso families, Catherine Yronwode reports that her father, Giuseppe Manfredi (a.k.a. Joey Manfredi or Fred Manfredi), took painting lessons from Beauford and his brother Joseph when they lived in Greenwich Village. Beauford taught him to paint portraits and he eventually became a WPA artist. He paid for his lessons by acting as a model for Beauford and Joseph. Ms. Yronwode states that her father told her that Beauford was briefly in love with him and says her mother told her that Beauford and her father lived together for a while.

  • During the late 1960s and early 70s, Beauford merited the attention of three journalists who wrote "Paris Scratchpad" for Jet Magazine - Gerri Major, Art Simmons, and Ray Frost. In a column written by Ray Frost in June 1971, he is described as painter-writer-philosopher Beauford Delaney, "a familiar and engaging personage frequently seen holding court in various Paris cafés." Frost notes that the reference to "philosopher" stems from Beauford's talent for dispensing sage advice.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

An Unexpected Discovery and a Primer for Art Collection

I met Anne Stills several months ago when she wrote to me to comment on the recent publication of my book entitled Black Paris Profiles. Since that time, we communicate frequently by e-mail to share information about Paris.

I received a couple of messages from Anne a few days ago, each with an image attached. I was delighted to find that the images were of paintings by Beauford!

Untitled (recto)
(1942) Pastel on paper
Image courtesy of Anne Stills

Untitled (verso)
(undated) Pastel on paper
Image courtesy of Anne Stills

Anne found these paintings at a private art dealer's establishment* in NYC while she was purchasing art to add to her collection. The dealer, Jon Mellitz, acquired them over 20 years ago from the Betty Esman estate (Esman was a WPA artist, as was Beauford.) Both pieces measure approximately 23x18 inches and are in good condition. The asking price is $7000 for both paintings.

Because I believe that the concept of art collection is foreign to many and because starting and building a collection requires education and advice, I asked Anne to grant Les Amis an interview to talk about art collection and what it means to her. Find our exchange below:

Anne Denise Stills at Versailles
Photo courtesy of Anne D. Stills

Les Amis: When did you first realize that you wanted to collect art?

Anne D. Stills: I have been collecting one thing or another most my life. We are all collectors, all of us. As a young person I collected dolls. I moved on to jazz albums, fashion magazines, cookbooks and mystery novels. As my taste and exposure to the world grew, I started more costly collections of porcelain teapots, Lladro and Herend figurines, and Hermes scarves. As I settled down and started paying more attention to home, I began to think about collecting art first as a means to decorate and later as a passionate pursuit.

Les Amis: Why is it important for you to collect art?

Anne D. Stills: I am a visual person. I need to be surrounded by beauty. The artwork in my home reflects my personal taste and brings a certain energy, joy and peace to my well being and sensibility. It reminds me of my parents and connects me to the history and experience of black people in America and the African Diaspora.

Les Amis: Which genres do you prefer (painting, sculpture, installations, photography…)?

Anne D. Stills: My collection is still young and evolving, therefore, I prefer to remain open and develop a taste for a broad range of mediums. I started with works on paper, along with vintage black and white photos.

Les Amis: Which types of paintings do you prefer (examples: figurative vs. abstract; portraits vs. landscapes; oils vs. watercolors vs. acrylics…)?

Anne D. Stills: My tastes are quite varied. In the beginning stages of collecting, I found myself drawn to abstract works of art. Later to round out my collection, I acquired figurative works. As a serious collector, I am very deliberate about my selections. It is very important that each piece enhances and fits into the overall theme.

I have a wish list of artists I want to collect. When I am considering a work, I mostly think about what that artist is known for and select art that represents a part of either their earlier or later works or sometimes both.

Les Amis: Is Beauford one of the artists whose work you'd like to collect?

Anne D. Stills: Yes, Beauford Delaney is on my wish list. I am partial to his abstracts and bold use of color.

Les Amis: When did you begin to collect art?

Anne D. Stills: My first awareness and deliberate decision to build a collection of fine art started five years ago. Once I made the decision, I thought long and hard about the strategy and artistic goal for my collection. I first went about educating myself and being exposed to many different types of art and artists. Through this exposure and training, I decided I wanted to focus my collection on African-American artists of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) period. This was a federal program established in 1935 during the Great Depression to offer work to the unemployed. There was an arts project component to help keep artists working. This was also during the time of the Harlem Renaissance with its explosion of cultural nationalism, black heritage, pride and the blossoming of black art and literature. I feel a strong affinity to the works created during this era.

Les Amis: What was your first purchase?

Anne D. Stills: My first acquisition was a Romare Bearden lithograph, Brass Section (Jamming at Minton’s), from the Jazz Series, dated 1979. As a lover of jazz music, this piece spoke to me. I remember gazing at the image and being taken back to the 1970s jazz club scene in Greenwich Village, grooving to the sounds of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and the voices of Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae and Shirley Horn.

Les Amis: How do you feel about the concept of “black art”?

Anne D. Stills: I believe the concept of black art is very subjective. You can ask different people including art historians and scholars this question and receive different answers. It’s a very broad subject. I am only an art lover, not an expert. However, I came of age in NYC during the late 1960s and early 1970s during a major social upheaval and transformational time. There was a proliferation of black expression, pride and the birth of the Black Movement. As a result, I was nurtured and exposed to the works of “black art” by all the many incredibly talented, prolific writers, musicians and artists that look like me and whom I could identify with. This was my bridge into the art world. It established a comfort level for me. As an example, my love for opera music developed because I was able to go and see Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman and Shirley Verrett…people that looked like me.

Black art has illuminated my path, nurtured my growth and given me the freedom to broaden my horizons and develop a global perspective.

Les Amis: Does your collection represent an investment or simply a passion?

Anne D. Stills: My collection comes out of my love and passion for the history and legacy of African-American artists, their art and our collective experiences. I applaud their ability to document what they saw and express their emotions to create something beautiful that I live with and enjoy each day. That is the driving force behind my building a fine art collection. At some point, however, as my collection grew in size and value, it inevitably evolved into an investment. As an investment, there are certain considerations that require management - things such as insurance, tax, and estate planning.

Les Amis: Do you use the Internet to search for works to collect?

Anne D. Stills: The Internet can certainly be used as a source to search for artwork. I much prefer an interactive and proactive approach, including consulting with my art dealers and attending art auctions, galleries and art fairs. The primary source I have used to collect art is through reputable dealers that I have developed a long-term relationship with. They are familiar with the strategy of my collection and have assisted me with evolving, expanding and growing my body of work.

Les Amis: What are the pros and cons of using the Internet?

Anne D. Stills: The down side of buying art on the Internet is that you may purchase a fraudulent work if you are not experienced and knowledgeable. There can be a lot fraud if you don’t know what you are doing. It’s important to receive certificate of authenticity to document the details and value of your artwork. This may not always be possible using an Internet seller. The positive side, however, is that you are purchasing directly as opposed to through a middle man such as an auction house, thereby, getting a better price.

Some dealers use the Internet to sell their inventory. I once came upon a valuable piece of artwork directly via the Internet. It was put up for auction at a major auction house in the past, however, did not sell. The seller’s asking price was thousands of dollars below the auction house estimate. Unfortunately, I was not able to purchase it because it was not within my budget at the time.

Les Amis: How would you advise someone new to art collection to begin?

Anne D. Stills: All serious art collecting begins with educating yourself and building an art library. A great deal of effort must be put in prior to your first purchase. I would advise the novice collector to spend of lot of time visiting museums and galleries as well as attending local art fairs and auctions. Study art magazines and gallery catalogs. Attend exhibits and establish relationships with contemporary artists, gallery owners, curators and collectors. Study the African-American art collections of important private collectors such as Dr. Walter O. Evans (Savannah College of Art and Design), Dr. Harmon and Harriet Kelley (private collection), and Paul R. Jones collection (University of Delaware and University of Alabama)—these are an extremely educational resource. In time you will train your eye and your gut to identify artists that have created the works that speak to you.

Quality artwork by established emerging artists can be found to fit any taste and budget. To develop a good collection, you must develop your eye.

Les Amis: Are there any references, online courses, or other resources that you would recommend to new collectors?

Anne D. Stills: One of the books I consider the bible of African-American art history is A History of African-American Artists, From 1792 to the Present by Romare Bearden & Harry Henderson. The information, artists and works presented in this book and made during this period laid the groundwork for everything that followed. Another important reference and must have is Collecting African American Art, Works on Paper and Canvas by Halima Taha. This book is invaluable with everything the new collector needs to know. The IRAAA (The International Review of African American Art) magazine published by Hampton University Museum is an excellent resource for identifying emerging artists and what is trending in the art world of black artists.

Three excellent books that I would recommend by art historians and scholars are Black Art in the 20th Century and To Conserve a Legacy: American Art of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, both by Richard Powell; and African American Art and Artists by Samella Lewis. Additional resources would include the online archived catalogs at Swann Galleries, and the auction house Web sites for Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

*For more information about the Beauford Delaney portraits, contact Jon Mellitz at 917-721-3608.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Beauford's Portrait of Charlie Parker

Many thanks to the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY for furnishing the images and information presented in this post.


Several of Beauford's paintings are being shown in the Blues for Smoke exposition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. One of them is an untitled work that is also known as Charlie "Bird" Parker:

Untitled (aka Charlie "Bird" Parker), 1968
Oil on canvas
28 3/4" x 23 1/2", signed and dated
© Estate of Beauford Delaney, Courtesy of
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York , NY

This painting is signed and dated in the lower right corner: 1968 Beauf Delaney. It is also signed, inscribed and dated in the upper right corner on the back: Beauford Delaney Paris 1968 France. Billy Dee Williams (Los Angeles, CA) acquired it directly from Beauford in 1968 in the accompaniment of James Baldwin. It is currently held by the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY, which loaned it to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA) for the current exposition. It appears on page 51 of the exhibition catalog.

In an article about Blues for Smoke, published by the New York Times on February 8, 2013, Holland Cotter discusses the few pieces in the show that come from Europe. Beauford's paintings are a part of this group. About the portrait shown above, Holland states:
Europe — Paris — was the adopted home of the painter Beauford Delaney, who has a wonderful little 1968 portrait here of Charlie Parker, dressed like an African chief in a citrus-yellow robe.
Untitled (aka Charlie "Bird" Parker) - detail, 1968
Oil on canvas
28 3/4" x 23 1/2", signed and dated
© Estate of Beauford Delaney, Courtesy of
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York , NY

Blues for Smoke was shown at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA from October 21, 2012 - January 7, 2013; the show opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art on February 17 and will hang until April 28, 2013.

Click on the links below to read other Les Amis blog posts about Beauford and the Whitney Museum of American Art:
Where to Find Beauford's Art: Whitney Museum of American Art

Beauford at the Whitney Museum Studio Galleries - 1930