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 28, 2013

Beauford on View at the Centre Pompidou

In 2011, I reported that the Centre Pompidou holds one of Beauford's abstract expressionist paintings on reserve. It was donated to the museum by M. and Mme du Closel, who were devoted patrons of Beauford.

I am thrilled to report that the painting is now on display! It is part of the Multiple Modernities 1905-1970 exposition (also called Plural Modalities) that will hang until January 2015.

Monique and Beauford's Untitled (1957) Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

This work hangs in a short corridor (Traverse G) between Rooms 31 and 34 on the 5th floor of the museum. Because it is not displayed in a room, it can be difficult to find. I had to ask at the visitor's information area (4th floor) where the painting is hung and was dismayed to learn that neither Beauford's name, nor a listing of the painting, appear in the official catalog for the exposition or the museum's Intranet. One of the attendants was kind enough to walk me to the exact location of the painting.

Location of Beauford's Painting
© Discover Paris!
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

The label text copy presents the following information in English (translated from French):

African-American artist Pierre [sic] Beauford-Delaney studied in Boston then at the Art Student League in New York, with John Sloan. He joined the Harlem Renaissance movement, which was struggling for African-American emancipation, and started painting live portraits of jazz musicians playing in Harlem jazz clubs. He had settled in Paris by 1953, when he had gravitated toward abstract expressionism. In this work, the distinguishable blue figure in the thick swirl of predominantly red and yellow paint could be an animal.

For reasons unknown, the Pompidou Center has Beauford's name listed as Pierre Beauford-Delaney in its online data base. While they corrected this in the text for the painting and the biographical information presented about Beauford in French, I was disappointed to note that they neglected to correct it in the English translation.

The information presented about Beauford himself is scant and not quite accurate (he began his New York career by painting dancers and society women at Billy Pierce's Dancing School, not by painting jazz musicians). I had hoped for a more detailed description of the painting as well.

All that aside, the work is magnificent - it is well worth a trip to the museum to see it! The exposition is on display through January 26, 2015.

Centre Georges Pompidou
19 Rue Beaubourg
75004 Paris
Telephone: 01 44 78 12 33
Metro: Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville, and Châtelet
Open every day except Tuesdays and May 1.
Hours: 11am-10pm. No tickets sold after 8pm.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Holidays from Les Amis de Beauford Delaney!

In celebration of the holiday season, I'm pleased to bring you a Christmas carol by one of Beauford's favorite singers - Ella Fitzgerald:

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Ella Fitzgerald
(1968) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Click on the link above the image and enjoy.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Baldwin-Delaney Legacy

The following is a reprint of the article entitled "Our Inheritance and Our Hope," written by Justin Torres and published in The Advocate. I reproduce it here with the permission of The Advocate in honor of Beauford's deep and enduring friendship with Baldwin and in acknowledgment of Beauford's struggle with his sexuality and the violence that he suffered because of it.

Dark Rapture
(1941) Oil on board
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

When James Baldwin was 16 years old, he sat nude for the queer Harlem Renaissance painter Beauford Delaney, who was then in his 40s. The two were never lovers, but formed a lifelong, familial mentorship; Baldwin spoke of Delaney as his spiritual father. Delaney painted many images of Baldwin over the years. The painting I’m referring to, Dark Rapture, shows Baldwin in bruised colors, but in harmony with his environment, welcome in the world Delaney has painted. I came across this image only recently, a reproduction in the fantastic new survey book Art & Queer Culture (Phaidon). I held the book open to Baldwin’s image, arrested by the ecstatic beauty but also disturbed. I stared and stared. Looking at Baldwin like this, young and vulnerable, some vague dread tugged at me but I couldn’t place its source. Like most lovers of American literature, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Baldwin: about his rage, his eloquence, his activism; about Baldwin in Harlem and Baldwin in Paris. I’ve read his novels and essays and watched him dazzle in television interviews. Yet when I’ve thought about Baldwin as a child and as a very young man, I’ve thought mostly about his domineering father, about his preaching in and then fleeing the church, about just how unwelcoming, how hostile, the world was to this beautiful brown gay boy. Now, looking at this image, I remembered that Baldwin as a young man was also cherished. In certain pockets of New York, by certain right-minded folks, and most certainly in Delaney’s studio, Baldwin was seen for all his brilliant potential.

I should have felt comforted that Baldwin had this, at least, but instead I was troubled. Why? I went to the bookshelf and flipped open The Price of the Ticket, hoping to find out what the man himself had to say about this time in his life, and right there on page 1 was Baldwin talking about Delaney. He wrote about how Delaney introduced him to a world of black intellectuals, artists, musicians, and socialists. Many of them were celebrities, like the singer Marian Anderson, but Baldwin was encouraged not to see them as celebrities but as his cultural ancestors. And Baldwin was made to understand, as well, that like all family, they had expectations for him, and to that end they would do their best to protect him. “If Beauford and Miss Anderson were part of my inheritance,” he writes, “I was part of their hope.”

Marian Anderson
(1965) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

I looked again at the portrait of young Baldwin. I thought, My god, to be 16, black, and queer in 1941, and to be loved, and to feel welcome, and to understand oneself as the hope of a movement.

And then I realized the source of my dread and my trouble. Earlier that day, I had read in the paper that Islan Nettles, age 21, had died of her injuries a week after a transphobic street beating left her in a coma. I had stared and stared at the accompanying photo. The news had me heart- broken, horrified, and pissed, and worse, cynical about what would come next. Why was the world so unloving, so violently, lethally unwelcoming to our transgender youth? I knew that there would be a vigil, and I knew that eloquent, enraged, passion- ate words would be spoken, that trans women and others would stand up and say what needed to be said, but how would they be heard? And by whom?

Nettles was a black trans woman beaten to death in Harlem, and what terrified and enraged me was the thought that her race, her class, her gender identity —hell, the very neighborhood of her murder — meant that her death would not shock enough to draw the world’s attention; not only the attention of mainstream media, but perhaps not even from the gay main- stream community.

We need to be shocked. I did not know Nettles. I know only what I’ve read — that she was creative, a fashion designer — and what I’ve seen — that she was very beautiful and very young. I do not know what kind of personal mentorship she had in her life. I want to believe that at 21, black and trans in 2013, there were places she felt loved and welcome, and I want to believe that she understood herself as the hope of our movement. But I do not know, I do not know. I only know what I felt looking at her photo, and what I feel now: That despite all the strides the queer movement has made, on the whole, we still do not love and cherish transgender people enough, especially young trans women and trans men of color. We do not see them as we should, as the flowering of our movement, as our hope.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Beauford at the American Cultural Center

David Leeming’s Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney mentions that Beauford's works were shown several times at the American Cultural Center on rue du Dragon. The center was founded by Beauford's dear friend, Darthea Speyer, and was subsequently taken over by another friend, Hélène Baltrusaitis.

Leeming describes one of these occasions as follows:

On March 21, under the direction of Hélène Baltrusaitis, the American Cultural Center on the rue du Dragon, with the help of several friends, sponsored an evening dedicated to the painter. There was a retrospective exposition of his works borrowed from various galleries and collectors and a huge colorful sign painted by Joe Downing that said "We love Beauford." There was food and champagne and a jazz band...

Needless to say, I was thrilled when Robert Tricoire, a French journalist who worked for the Cultural Attaché of the American Embassy during the 1960s, shared the images below (reproduced with permission from the U.S. Embassy in Paris) with me:

We Love Beauford
(Beauford is front and center)

Beauford and Darthea Speyer

Beauford in the audience at the American Cultural Center

Tricoire was introduced to Beauford by their mutual friend, American artist James LeGros. Beauford and Tricoire became friends and would visit each other at their respective homes in Montparnasse.

The event at the American Cultural Center took place in 1969.