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 24, 2016

Beauford at the Musée du quai Branly's Exhibition The Color Line

Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald (detail)
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Beauford's Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald is a sparkling gem among the works of fine art being displayed at the exhibition entitled The Color Line, which is currently being shown at the Musée du quai Branly Jacques Chirac in Paris.

On loan from the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, South Carolina, it hangs in the "Black is Beautiful" section of the exhibition.

The SCAD Museum of Art describes the painting as follows:

Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald encapsulates Beauford Delaney’s range of artistic styles, marrying gestural abstract mark making with portraiture. His figurative works, which included portraits of other notable artists of the time such as Duke Ellington and Marian Anderson, turned ever more abstract and into complete non-representation after Delaney moved from New York to Paris in the early 1950s. This portrait parallels this stylistic shift as the characteristics of Ms. Fitzgerald’s face subtly emerge from, or disappear into, the expansive field of color and texture around her.

Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald
(1968) Oil on canvas
Permanent collection of the SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah
Gift of Dr. Walter O. and Mrs. Linda J. Evans
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

The Color Line
is an exhibition about U.S. history in which an inordinate number of works of fine art are hung. It will be on display through January 15, 2017.

The Color Line
Musée du quai Branly Jacques Chirac
37, quai Branly
75007 Paris
Internet: http://www.quaibranly.fr
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday - 11 AM to 7 PM; Thursday through Saturday - 11 AM to 9 PM. Closed Mondays.
Entry fee: 10€
Reduced fee: 7€


Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is taking off for the holidays and will be back online in January 2017.

For a jazzy start to your Christmas weekend, click HERE to enjoy a song by Ella!


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Beauford at the Studio Museum in Harlem's Circa 1970 Exhibition

Circa 1970
presents paintings, photographs, drawings, prints, and sculpture from the Studio Museum in Harlem's collection. Forty-one (41) works by twenty-six (26) artists were selected by Lauren Haynes to explore the historical, socio-political, and cultural landscapes of the period between 1970 and 1979. Hayes was formerly Associate Curator of the Permanent Collection at The Studio Museum in Harlem and is now Curator of Contemporary Art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Beauford's Portrait of a Young Musician was selected as the signature painting for promoting the exhibition, which includes works by artists such as David Hammons and Barbara Chase-Riboud, as well as personal friends of Beauford such as Ed Clark and Romare Bearden.

Portrait of a Young Musician
(1970) Acrylic on canvas
51 x 38 in; 129.5 x 96.5 cm
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Studio Museum in Harlem; Gift of Ms. Ogust Delaney Stewart, Knoxville, TN 2004.2.27
Photo: Marc Bernier

The portrait was first shown at the Studio Museum during the first retrospective of Beauford's work that took place from April 9-July 2, 1978. That exhibition was curated by the late Dr. Richard A. Long.

The information panel for Circa 1970 refers to the 1970s as a decade of increased social consciousness and awareness that allowed for greater inclusivity for black artists in the mainstream art world. While Beauford had been living in Paris for almost 20 years by this time, he benefited somewhat from this "opening." In the biography Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, author David Leeming writes that 1970 and 1971 were "years of success of sorts":

Georgia O'Keeffe's portrait of him was on display at the Whitney Museum in New York, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery asked to borrow the Marian Anderson portrait that only a few years earlier they had declined to purchase, . . . [and] his portrait of Henry Miller was in the November 1971 issue of Playboy magazine.

In France, the solo exhibition that Darthea Speyer organized for him in Paris in 1973 inspired a positive review written by French journalist Jacques Michel for Le Monde.

Circa 1970
November 17, 2016 - March 5, 2017
The Studio Museum in Harlem
144 West 125th Street
New York, New York 10027

Museum Hours
Wednesday: 5pm–7pm, Members Only
Thursday: 12pm–9pm
Friday: 12pm–9pm
Saturday: 10am–6pm
Sunday: 12pm–6pm

The Museum is closed on Christmas Day.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Beauford's Rehearsal

At the recent Art Basel Miami Beach Fair, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery's (MRG) Jazz and Improvisation checklist included eleven Beauford Delaney works. Among them was Rehearsal, an image of which is shown below.

(1952) oil on canvas
36 1/8" x 30 1/8" / 91.8 x 76.5 cm
signed and dated
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Image courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

This painting was enjoyed by two private collectors prior to finding its way to MRG. Among the gallery's notes about the work is the following statement:

Rehearsal is extremely autobiographical and the church choir subject is one that naturally resonated with Delaney. His father Samuel Delaney was a Methodist minister, and his favorite brother, Samuel Emery Delaney, was a gospel singer and a member of a jubilee quartet that traveled throughout the South singing spirituals and gospels. Delaney himself loved to sing and occasionally gave recitals in New York clubs and concert halls.

Rehearsal was one of the paintings shown at Beauford's final solo exhibition at the Roko Gallery in New York (December 29, 1952 - January 22, 1953). In her Art News article about the exhbition, Betty Holloway described the painting has having a "solemn" mood.

In 1994, Rehearsal was displayed in New York once again - this time at the Philippe Briet Gallery. The solo show was called Beauford Delaney: The New York Years (1929-1952). It consisted of 47 works that Beauford created between 1929 and 1953.

Eleanor Heartney wrote an insightful review of the exhibition (Art in America, November 1994), which included multiple works inspired by musical themes. She says the following about Rehearsal:
In a different mood, Rehearsal (1952) depicts a gospel choir practicing beneath the gothic arches of brilliantly colored church windows.

She then goes on to briefly discuss Beauford's "disappearance from the consciousness of the New York art world," attributing it in part to Beauford's emigration from New York to Paris at precisely the time when New York was becoming recognized as "the world's cultural capital."

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery
100 11th Avenue at 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Internet: http://michaelrosenfeldart.com

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Beauford Honored in Portraiture

Over the years, I've had the pleasure of bringing you stories about people who loved Beauford and / or admired his work and who chose to express their feelings by painting a portrait of him. I thought it would be nice to gather images of some of these portraits into a single post and share the links to the original stories.


October 6, 2012
Beauford in Blue: Story of a Portrait

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

December 29, 2012
A Birthday Card for Beauford

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

May 3, 2014
James LeGros Remembers Beauford - Part 1

Portrait Beauford Delaney
(1972) Pastel on paper
© James K. LeGros

November 8, 2014
Nell Painter on Beauford

Beauford Delaney at Yaddo Pink 2014
Nell Painter
(2014) Digital and manual collage on paper

October 29, 2016
From Knoxville to Paris - Part 2

Portrait of Beauford Delaney
Daniel Craft
(2016) Acrylic on canvas
© Wells International Foundation

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Beauford's 1959 Thanksgiving

Beauford was living in the Paris suburb of Clamart in 1959. His address was 68, rue Paul Vaillant Couturier.

68, rue Paul Vaillant Couturier, Clamart
© Discover Paris!

Both Beauford and his dear friend, James Baldwin, were in a fragile emotional state during the weeks and months leading up to Thanksgiving that year. Both men benefited from an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner party that Baldwin organized in Beauford's honor.

David A. Leeming, author of Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, says that the party was "memorable, and Beauford demonstrated his happiness by for the first time in years singing some of the old songs with Baldwin."

Fern Marja Eckman, author of The Furious Passage of James Baldwin, provides readers with greater detail. She notes that Baldwin lived "about a block away" from Beauford, in a flat located above a country restaurant. Baldwin had the owners of the restaurant, whom he called Pierrot and Pierrette, prepare the meal under his supervision. Eckman quotes one of the invitees for the evening, a Belgian writer and director named Robert Cordier, to paint a picture of the festivities:

Jimmy took over the whole restaurant for Thanksgiving ... The table was carefully arranged with autumn decorations. It was really a banquet for twenty people. Jimmy's a gourmet, a connoisseur of wine and cognac. That was a great night!

Happy Thanksgiving weekend from Les Amis de Beauford Delaney!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

From Paris to Knoxville - Part 5

A couple of days before I arrived in Knoxville, I received the image below in an e-mail from Knoxville Museum of Art curator Stephen Wicks. His message said "I guess this is yet another sign that our efforts to raise Beauford's visibility here are starting to pay off."

Market House Café menu
Image courtesy of Knoxville Museum of Art

"This" refers to the handwritten menu from a Knoxville eatery called the Market House Café. If you look closely, you will see that the fourth item on the breakfast menu is the "Beaufort Delaney Abstract Strata"!

Beauford's name is misspelled "Beaufort" on the board. But it is spelled correctly on the Market House Café Web site:

Market House Café online menu
Screenshot from Market House Café Web site

On my first full day in Knoxville, I spent most of the day visiting Beauford's archives. For lunch, we ordered take-out from the Market Street Café and partook of a wide selection of items from their menu. Though breakfast was officially over, the kitchen prepared a special Beauford Delaney Abstract Strata for me. It was a frittata made of egg, bacon, spinach, tomato, and feta cheese.

Beauford Delaney Abstract Strata
© Wells International Foundation

And it was wonderful!

I spoke with Andy Pirkle, one of the kitchen managers at the Market House Café, to get more information about this dish. I learned that it is prepared as an open-faced omelet (frittata) and finished in the oven, like a strata. It is a popular item, being made with anything that is available in the kitchen on a given day. Customers enjoy the luxury of having their dish prepared to order and cooked in full view. It is therefore very unlikely that you'll have the same ingredients in your Strata from one visit to the next unless you specifically ask for them.

The Market House Café has a business model based on the strategy "Eat local, be local, and know about local" and many of its dishes are named after local celebrities. The Beauford Delaney Abstract Strata has been on the menu since the café opened on December 22, 2015. At that time, it was simply called the "Beauford Delaney Frittata."

Pirkle did not create the café's menu and was not aware that Beauford was an artist - he thought Beauford may have been in politics! When I explained that Beauford was a painter and pointed out that the menu describes the preparation of the strata as "depending on the artistic nature of the day," he immediately asked if Beauford were an abstract expressionist painter. I confirmed that he was.

Pirkle was appreciative, saying he's in the process of learning about all the people and places for which dishes on the café's menu are named. This will allow him to knowledgeably discuss the café's offerings with its clientele.

What a creative way to honor Beauford!

Market House Café
36 Market Square
Knoxville, TN 37902
Telephone: 865-444-5949
Internet: http://www.markethousecafe.com/

Read Part 1 of "From Paris to Knoxville" by clicking HERE.

Read Part 2 of "From Paris to Knoxville" by clicking HERE.

Read Part 3 of "From Paris to Knoxville" by clicking HERE.

Read Part 4 of "From Paris to Knoxville" by clicking HERE.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

From Paris to Knoxville - Part 4

Thursday, October 20 was the biggest day of my trip to Knoxville.

That morning, I visited the L&N STEM Academy, a magnet high school in the Knox County School system that focuses on the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math. It provides an integrated curriculum and project-based instruction.

L&N STEM Academy
© Wells International Foundation

Even though the name implies that the arts are not a focus of the curriculum, I found that L&N has a marvelous and robust arts program!

Students work on self-portraits at L&N STEM Academy
© Wells International Foundation

I was given a tour by London, a brilliant student who wants to specialize in graphic design. He perfectly articulated why arts are so important for STEM activities - they encourage the creativity and innovation required for scientific discovery and invention.

London, a student at L&N STEM Academy
© Wells International Foundation

I then sat down with a staff member to learn about the curriculum and the school's ranking in the Tennessee education system (6th in the entire state.)

If you're wondering why I chose to visit a STEM school as part of this trip, let me inform (or remind) you that the Global Educator Program that was held during the Paris exhibition was all about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education. A similar program will be organized at the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) when the exhibition comes to Knoxville in 2018.

After a strategy-planning lunch with KMA Executive Director David Butler, Link Sylvia Peters, and attorney Melinda Meador (all of whom came to Paris for the opening of Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color), I was taken to City Hall to meet Knoxville's mayor!

The Honorable Madeline Rogero and Senior Director of Community Development Avice Reid welcomed us to the mayor's spacious suite of offices and listened to Executive Director Butler, Link Peters, and me tell the story of our passion for Beauford and why making Knoxville a resource center for him is in everyone's best interest. From the point of view of tourism, scholarship, and historical preservation, we all agreed that Knoxville should be an essential destination for anyone wanting to learn about Beauford.

From left to right: Avice Reid, Monique Y. Wells,
Mayor Madeline Rogero, Sylvia Peters, David Butler
© Wells International Foundation

The final event of the day was my presentation on Beauford's Paris at the Knoxville Museum of Art. The evening was entitled "From Paris to Knoxville" and KMA's auditorium was filled with people who were anxious to see images of several of Beauford's Paris haunts.

Stephen Wicks, Barbara W. and Bernard E. Bernstein Curator for the museum, served as MC for the evening.

Stephen Wicks, Barbara W. and Bernard E. Bernstein Curator
Knoxville Museum of Art
© Wells International Foundation

Beck Cultural Exchange Center's CEO, Reneé Kesler, addressed the audience to share why preserving the Delaney family home is so important to the history of Knoxville.

Reneé Kesler, CEO of Beck Cultural Exchange Center
© Wells International Foundation

Then I delivered my presentation.

Monique delivering presentation "From Paris to Beyond"
© Wells International Foundation

To close the evening, Knoxville Links Chapter President Avice Reid told the audience how the chapter intends to support the initiative by raising funds to bring Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color to KMA. She presented Executive Director Butler with a $5000 down payment on the monies they intend to raise.

Presenting the check
© Wells International Foundation

All in all, tremendous momentum has been created for the Beauford Delaney in America initiative!

Next week: Beauford on the menu.

Read Part 1 of "From Paris to Knoxville" by clicking HERE.

Read Part 2 of "From Paris to Knoxville" by clicking HERE.

Read Part 3 of "From Paris to Knoxville" by clicking HERE.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

From Paris to Knoxville - Part 3

After my visit to the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, I had lunch with the docents at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Over soup, sandwiches, and iced tea, I spoke with them about my "Beauford Delaney journey" - beginning with the story of the tombstone. They eagerly posed question after question about Beauford's life and work and I responded just as eagerly. By the time lunch was ending, the room was abuzz with talk of planning a KMA docent trip to Paris!

KMA Docent Lunch
© Wells International Foundation

That afternoon, Link Sylvia Peters and I went to the East Tennessee History Center. This magnificent building houses the Museum of East Tennessee History, the McClung Historical Collection (the genealogy and history research branch of the Knox County Public Library), and the Knox County archives. Steve Cotham, manager of the historical collection, gave us the grand tour of the facility. He shared information about not only the content of the museum exhibitions and the library stacks, but also anecdotes about the history and architecture of the building itself. He explained that the History Center wants to become the permanent home of the Beauford Delaney archives in Knoxville.

East Tennessee History Center
© Wells International Foundation

That evening, I was honored to attend a dinner at the home of Patricia and Alan Rutenberg. Invitees included several persons who visited Paris for the opening of Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color in February; members of the Knoxville chapter of The Links, Incorporated - including Chapter President Avice Reid, who serves as Senior Director of Community Relations for the Knoxville mayor's office; and educators from Knoxville schools. Once again, I shared my "Beauford Delaney journey" and responded to questions from the guests. Several of the attendees told me that they planned to attend the presentation that I was scheduled to give at the Knoxville Museum of Art the following evening.

Monique (seated, third from left) and Knoxville Links
© Wells International Foundation

Next week: the KMA presentation.

Read Part 1 of "From Paris to Knoxville" by clicking HERE.

Read Part 2 of "From Paris to Knoxville" by clicking HERE.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

From Paris to Knoxville - Part 2

An important part of my visit to Knoxville was having the occasion to visit places important to Beauford's life there.

I had long since learned that the original family home at 815 East Vine Street had been destroyed and that the Delaneys moved to a house on Dandridge Avenue.

What I didn't know was why the original home was destroyed. I learned all about this through a visit to the Beck Cultural Exchange Center.

Beck Cultural Exchange Center (rear)
© Wells International Foundation

Beck's president and CEO, Rev. Reneé Kesler, welcomed Link Sylvia Peters (my gracious hostess for this trip) and me to the Center on Wednesday morning. Rev. Kesler explained how the process of urban renewal, also known as "urban removal," decimated the geographical area occupied by African Americans in Knoxville from 1959 to 1974. The original Delaney home disappeared along with hundreds of others, as did the Delaney barbershop, which was run by Beauford's older brother, Emery. It was located in the front room of the Vine Street house.

The urban renewal of Knoxville is featured in one of several permanent exhibitions at the Center.

"Urban Removal" in Knoxville
Image from Beck Cultural Center Web site

Rev. Kesler gave us a complete tour of the Center, including "The Gallery," where several works of art are displayed. Many of these were created by Beauford's brother, Joseph. There is also a portrait of Beauford in that room, inspired by the first meeting for the Beauford Delaney in America project that took place at Beck on June 2, 2016.

Portrait of Beauford Delaney
Daniel Craft
(2016) Acrylic on canvas
© Wells International Foundation

We then went next door, where it just so happens that the "new" Delaney home is located. The family relocated there at some point between 1964 and 1969 and resided there when Beauford returned to Knoxville for a Christmas visit in 1969. Beck currently owns this property and is making plans to restore it.

Delaney home on Dandridge Avenue
© Wells International Foundation

Rear of Delaney homestead (left) viewed from Beck Center
© Wells International Foundation

The family's place of worship - the Lennon-Seney United Methodist Church - is located just a block down the street. Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit it.

I found the Beck Cultural Exchange Center to be a treasure trove of information and artifacts that preserves the legacy of Knoxville's African-American community. It is well positioned for the vital role it will play in the Beauford Delaney in America initiative.

Beck is a Charter Member of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Beck Cultural Exchange Center
1927 Dandridge Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37915
Telephone: (865)524-8461
Internet: http://www.beckcenter.net/

Beck Cultural Exchange Center sign
© Wells International Foundation

Read Part 1 of "From Paris to Knoxville" by clicking HERE.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

From Paris to Knoxville - Part 1

I took my first trip to Beauford's hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee this week. What a great pleasure to visit this beautiful city, where Beauford was born and made his first strides as an artist!

I spent much of the first two days of my visit at the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA).

Knoxville Museum of Art
© Discover Paris!

Here, I was thrilled to be able to stand before the three Beauford Delaney paintings* that are on permanent display in KMA's Higher Ground exhibition. Higher Ground showcases some of the best works by East Tennessee artists, including Beauford's first mentor, Lloyd Branson.

Portrait of Delia Delaney
(1933) Pastel on paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Dante Pavone as Christ
(1948) Pastel on paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Scattered Light
(1964) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

I also had the pleasure of meeting Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, the attorney who represents Beauford's estate. He graciously granted me access to Beauford's archives.

Derek Spratley and Monique Wells
© Discover Paris!

I saw countless photos, several paintings and works on paper, and a mere fraction of the documents that cast light upon the minute details of Beauford's life. There wasn't nearly enough time to go through the entire archive, so I definitely plan to return.

The week's activities included visits to the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, the East Tennessee History Center, the office of Mayor Madeline Rogero, and the L&N Stem Academy. It culminated with the kickoff event for the initiative to bring the Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition to KMA as part of a larger movement to raise Knoxville's awareness of Beauford and to honor him there.

Look for more details in the next Les Amis blog post.

*Click HERE for details about Portrait of Delia Delaney and Dante Pavone as Christ. Click HERE for details about Scattered Light.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Amaranth Ehrenhalt Remembers Beauford

I do not know if i "want to paint" or do not "want to paint". It is just something that I do - like breathing and moving, walking and talking. I can not imagine my life without it.

-- Amaranth Ehrenhalt

This quote can be found on the Web site of Amaranth Ehrenhalt - painter, sculptor, photographer, and tapistry maker. Ehrenhalt is a seasoned, yet contemporary artist whose works were recently on display in the Works in Progress exhibition at Lawrence Art Gallery. Her description of herself could just as easily be ascribed to Beauford.

"Amara" graciously responded to my request for an interview. She told me that she met Beauford some time around the late 50's - early 60's at a cafe, especially known by artists and writers, possibly Le Select. She was living and working in Paris at the time and did not know anything about him prior to that meeting. She and Beauford participated in exhibitions from time to time and had a friend in common - painter and writer Arlene Hiquily.

Café Select
© Discover Paris!

Amara's most vivid memory of Beauford is of seeing him at the Select, when he came over to the table where she was sitting with others and helped himself to any of the drinks that were unfinished. She said "this was tolerated with amusement because he was such a fine and serious artist."

Saturday, October 8, 2016

SOLD: Untitled (Portrait of a Young Man)

Beauford's Untitled (Portrait of a Young Man) (Lot 21) sold at Swann Auction Galleries' autumn African-American Fine Art sale on Thursday, October 6, 2016.

Untitled (Portrait of a Young Man)
(circa 1930-35) Color pastels and charcoal on
gray, textured wove paper
597x445 mm; 23x17 1/2 inches
Signed in charcoal at lower left
Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

The purchase price was $5000 (buyer's premium included).

Beauford created a niche for himself during his early years in New York by painting pastel and charcoal portraits. He began at Billy Pierce's Dancing School, applying the skills that he learned at the schools he attended in Boston. Untitled (Portrait of a Young Man) is representative of this period of Beauford's career.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Beauford at Swann Auction Galleries: October 2016 Sale

Swann Auction Galleries is having its autumn sale of African-American Fine Art at 2:30 PM on Thursday, October 6, 2016.

Beauford's Untitled (Portrait of a Young Man) (Lot 21) is available for purchase at this sale.

Untitled (Portrait of a Young Man)
(circa 1930-35) Color pastels and charcoal on
gray, textured wove paper
597x445 mm; 23x17 1/2 inches
Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

It is signed in charcoal at the lower left.

This portrait is an early work of Beauford, likely made soon after he moved from Knoxville to New York City. It is currently part of a private collection; the owner obtained the work from Beauford's brother, Joseph. Its estimated value is $6,000 - $9,000.

Preview dates for the show are as follows: Saturday, October 1 from 12 PM - 5 PM; Monday, October 3 from 3 PM - 5 PM; and Thursday, October 6 from 10 AM - noon.

For more information, contact Nigel Freeman at


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Beauford's Paris: Saint Anne's Hospital - Part 3

Beauford's friend, Jean-Loup Msika, recently shared with me information about the whereabouts of Beauford's room at Saint Anne's Hospital in Paris' 14th arrondissement. We had hoped to visit the location together, but massive renovation is currently underway in that area of the hospital grounds.

Msika provided me with a map of the grounds and showed me where Beauford's room was located. It was in a building in the southeast corner of the property (see the red circle on the map below).

Map of Saint Anne's Hospital (2012)

Here are photos of the façades of Pavillon Benjamin Ball and Pavillon Piera Aulagnier, the two buildings that create a boundary of sorts for the area where Beauford stayed. I took these pictures during a visit to the hospital in March 2014. Construction had already begun in the Ball Pavilion.

Pavillon Benjamin Ball
© Discover Paris!

Pavillon Piera Aulagnier
© Discover Paris!

Msika told me that Beauford shared a room with several other patients. There was a glass door that led to a garden where patients could go at will. It was in this area that the famous photograph of Beauford and James Baldwin was taken.

Beauford and Baldwin, 1976
Photo by Max Petrus

Click on the links below to read the first two posts about Saint Anne's Hospital:

Beauford's Paris: Saint Anne's Hospital - Part 1

Beauford's Paris: Saint Anne's Hospital - Part 2

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Beauford and Palmer Hayden

Beauford met Palmer Hayden during his early New York years. They, along with painters Ellis Wilson and Joseph Delaney (Beauford's brother) formed a group called "The Saints."

Beauford and Hayden became lifelong friends. It was Hayden who first gave Beauford the idea to travel to France.

The photograph below was taken at Washington Square in New York City, a location where outdoor art fairs were held for several years.

Palmer C. Hayden and Beauford Delaney at Washington Square, NYC (1930s)
Photo from the National Archives, Harmon Collection

Thanks to a tip from friend and colleague Michele Simms-Burton, I am able to share a silent video clip during which you can see Beauford and Hayden at this very scene! In the still frame for the video, you can see Beauford walking toward Hayden as Hayden sits at his easel.

Click on the image below to watch the 1:25 minute segment, which is part of a longer video called "A Study of Negro Artists (1936)." Beauford appears for a few seconds beginning at 0:50 seconds into the clip.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Beauford's Story Featured in the New York Times

Several months ago, through an introduction by global connector and Renaissance woman, Silver Wainhouse, I met journalist Jake Cigainero. The three of us sat at one of my favorite Paris meeting places and chatted for what seemed to be hours about why I am so passionate about Beauford Delaney. I told him about the grave site project, the Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color , the fact that eleven persons from Beauford's home town came to the opening of the show, and much more.

When we parted, Jake told me he thought the story would be of interest to the New York Times. He said he'd pitch it and keep me posted.

In late July, I took Silver and Jake on the "Beauford Delaney's Montparnasse" walk that I created for the Paris exhibition. Jake confirmed that the Times was indeed interested in the story and told me that he would interview many others to write it. He would subsequently call me twice for fact-checking sessions regarding what I shared in our initial meeting as well as during the walk, which I greatly appreciated!

On August 6, I published a blog post about the Beauford Delaney in America initiative that would revive Beauford's legacy in his home town of Knoxville, TN.

On September 8, the New York Times published an article that picked up the thread of that post. I was thrilled to discover just how many people Jake interviewed and the research he conducted to write this expansive and thorough piece about Beauford's life and legacy.

Read the article here:

Beauford Delaney Returns to the Scene

The same day this article appeared, I booked a round-trip ticket to Knoxville so I can attend October events that will spearhead the fundraising campaign to bring Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color to the Knoxville Museum of Art.

Knoxville Museum of Art

I'm looking forward to seeing KMA's collection of Beauford's work as well as visiting his archives and seeing his hometown for the first time!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A New Sight: Light & the Color Yellow in Beauford Delaney’s Portraits

By Sojourner Ahébée

What becomes immediately apparent about Beauford Delaney’s paintings is his obsession with light. Delaney often used the color yellow in his work as an expression of this light. Though yellow is present in many of his abstracts, his use of the color in his portraits serves as a fascinating dimension of what I would call a kind of second sight -- his ability to see those he painted beyond their physical presentation and to capture the energy, love, or brilliance they brought into the world.

If we are to talk about the intersection of light and the color yellow in Delaney’s portraits, we must also think about the trajectory of his portraits throughout his lifetime. As I was digging into his past, I encountered an intriguing work that he painted of a young woman in 1934.

Untitled (Portrait of a Young Woman)
(1934) Color pastels
Private collection
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

A previous Les Amis de Beauford Delaney blog post on Delaney’s portraiture presents readers with a quote by Dr. Catherine St. John:

It is the expressive single-figure realist portrait that first brought Beauford Delaney critical notice and a measure of success. He loved people. He continued the art of portraiture without interruption throughout his career. His portraits tell a story that is human and real, saying as much about him as those he painted.

What struck me the most about Delaney’s 1934 portrait of the young woman was its staggering realism. It is so detail-focused that it almost feels like looking at a photograph. The shadows falling on the woman’s face, her slightly disproportionate eyes, and the precision of the strands of hair at the top of her head all work to tell what Dr. St. John has identified as a “human story.”

Delaney’s mastery of such realism is simply a testament to the commitment he had to accurately capturing the likeness of his subjects. Every feature of the woman -- from the muscle on the left side of her neck to the subtle rouge in her cheeks -- is accounted for. Though this portrait has no trace of Delaney’s legendary yellow, it does play with light and darkness in interesting ways.

Yet, Delaney moved away from such realism in his later portraits. I wonder if this is indicative of the shortcomings of “primary” sight.

As Delaney experimented with other modes of portraiture, I think he realized that telling a person’s story demanded much more than replicating their features on the canvas. Maybe the painter asked himself to re-imagine a visual language for expressing who a person was (and what they offered the world) that was not wholly dependent on a literal or unembellished presentation of their physical countenance. Which only means he was looking for a figurative mode of storytelling.

And he certainly found one. Consider his 1968 portrait of Ella Fitzgerald.

Ella Fitzgerald
(1968) Oil on canvas
The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Here, the Queen of Jazz is shrouded in a misty yellow hue. Her head is the only part of her body that is identifiable, and even that is cloaked in Delaney’s remarkable yellow. Unlike the portrait of the young woman, this painting does not place great urgency on explicit and unambiguous details of the human body.

It would have been easy for Delaney to create a standard portrait of Lady Ella, but that would have been an incomplete rendering of the power and the light she made possible through her voice and her music. Think “Summertime” or “Cry Me a River”: Fitzgerald’s voice exists between a tender space and one ravaged by fire and uproar. She can sing sweetly as she drags out a note, but she can just as quickly disrupt that serenity with a booming moan. Regardless of what she sings and how, she illuminates some of the most human elements of waking life: love, heartbreak, desire. The way in which the yellow dominates the painting, almost like the way light pushes itself into a dark room to illuminate it, is just the way Fitzgerald’s voice moves into the ears and hearts of her listeners.

I think it is this dynamism of Fitzgerald’s voice and message that Delaney wished to capture in his painting of her. His use of the color yellow is not solely about an obsession with light, but also an opportunity to look into the internal landscape of a person, and he takes full advantage of this opportunity with Ella.

As Delaney continued to envelop his portraits in yellow hues, I think he was searching for a new sight. He was asking himself what of people is there to see and how could he make visible the most precious parts of their soul.


Sojourner Ahébée is a 2016 BOSP Continuation International Fellow for the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University. She is currently serving as the Paris intern for the Wells International Foundation.

Read more of Sojourner's work at Sojourner Ahébée.