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, August 27, 2016

Woman in an Abstract Field - After Beauford Delaney

By Sojourner Ahébée

A rising junior at Stanford University, Sojourner Ahébée is an award-winning poet. I asked her to write a poem about a Beauford Delaney work that she found particularly inspiring. "Woman in an Abstract Field - After Beauford Delaney" is the result.

Untitled (Woman in an Abstract Field)
(1966) Oil monotype, with hand-painted additions in oil,
on cream wove paper
Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator


which is to say open hole where the light fell in

in other words, let us lose our hands here
let us always be what grows --
                                    the sunflower, the pink hands of the hibiscus --

they say field could also mean

                                    carried out in the natural environment, 
                                    rather than in a laboratory

which is to say you were a field this morning when the Black woman tapped your back and you didn’t flinch
not from the touch, not from the small request of a few coins as Guadeloupe bloomed off her tongue
though someone who loved you a lot once said don’t stop for anyone in this city… 
that’s an invitation

sometimes a field comes with the intent to kill,
Blossoming yellow all over your face and nose

In other words, field artillery is made light as a brush stroke

like there are days you are a woman in a field, a woman walking through a weapon --

                                                                                              perhaps a field of gas

You close your eyes in the heat of the hammam one morning
a woman is rubbing lavender oil down your back
She has just called you out of your name
                                                                                     ma belle, she said
who was this woman you did not know,
who called you beauty with all the intention in her voice
as she slid the oil behind your ears, around a swollen thigh?

Like, it’s hard in this city, how the woman in the metro
walked right through you, how if you weren't there the
black woman would have had to lug her baby’s stroller
all those flights of stairs, how to everyone else she was
not there, how the man by the river actually
thought he could just touch you, how every time they kill
You it looks really small

                                                  ma belle
Was is her miraculous sight of you? Her use of the possessive, like you all belonged to each other and the beauty being named? Or just the shape of her mouth when as said MA,
Like is that the open hole where the light fell in, like let her mouth always be a field -- that thing that gives


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.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Beauford and Baldwin in Saint-Paul-de-Vence

From The Guardian:

In the Provençal town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, the picturesque stone house beneath the medieval ramparts is known as “la maison de Jimmy”. The official records office lists it as the ancienne maison Baldwin. . . . Today campaigners are battling to secure the future of his 17th-century house and its grounds, which have been earmarked for development into 18 luxury €1m flats. Two wings of the property on the 10-acre plot have already been demolished, including one in which he wrote.

Baldwin's property at Saint-Paul-de-Vence (2011)
Photos courtesy of Professor Francine Allen, Morehouse College

Beauford visited Baldwin at this property many times. Often, Baldwin had Bernard Hassell or someone else bring Beauford there when Beauford was in the midst of a psychological crisis. He painted the self-portrait shown below during one of those times of crisis.

(1972) Gouache on paper
Collection of David A. Leeming
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

In Amazing Grace, biographer David A. Leeming describes Beauford's 1973 stay at the Baldwin house after his hernia operation at a Saint-Paul-de-Vence clinic as being "perhaps Beauford's last truly happy ones." Les Amis would like to see the property preserved out of respect for Beauford's legacy as much as for that of Baldwin.

To learn more about this project, visit http://hisplaceinprovence.org.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Boundless Love: Beauford Delaney’s Letters to Larry Calcagno

By Sojourner Ahébée

An Artistic Friendship:
Beauford Delaney and Lawrence Calcagno

Catalog cover for art exposition
Palmer Museum of Art (2001)

Beauford Delaney’s life was marked by a certain loneliness as he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality and his mental health. But his friendships, especially those he nurtured in Paris, provided him with profound love and companionship.

Of particular importance was his friendship with Lawrence Calcagno, an American abstract expressionist painter who moved to Paris in the 1950s to study visual art. In his biography of Delaney, David A. Leeming, recounts that:

Beauford met Larry Calcagno early on in his stay in Paris through Charley Boggs… In Calcagno Beauford immediately recognized someone he could open up to. Also a homosexual, Larry was a handsome, gentle, highly sympathetic and loving man of forty who shared Beauford’s dedication to art.

In other words, Beauford saw much of himself in Larry. And though his friend would return to the United States permanently in the late 50s, Beauford and Larry would remain close through a series of letters written over many years.

In these letters, we find Beauford at his most honest and open self. We see his pain. We see his optimism and light. We witness his generous heart, his longing to be loved, and his longing to feel Larry's presence.

In a March 1959 missive, Beauford writes:
Dear Larry,

Your wonderful [,] informative letter arrived today like a celestial sentinel [.] I had walked into Paris this morning… and here was your letter… It almost made me weak.
That such a small thing could have such power over Beauford is a testament to the value the painter placed on these exchanges.

A few years later, the news of President Kennedy’s assassination would weigh heavily on Beauford’s heart. In November 1963, Beauford received a letter from Larry, enclosed with one of his drawings. Beauford wrote back, saying:

Dear Larry,

You beautiful scene… arrived today along with your living message [.] It was as if you were here in person [.] I immediately placed it upon the wall where I can see it all the time [.] We here are all overwhelmed with the death of President Kennedy and life and work are temporarily suspended. However, I am delighted with your spirit… and it is present in your work.

No 6 Portrait, JFK
(1966) Pastel
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

When Beauford tells Larry that reading his message made it feel as though he was physically present, Beauford puts forwards something of great importance – the letter’s capacity to carry the soul of the writer within its pages.

Receipt of Larry’s letter works against Beauford's self-alienation and alienation of the world. Though Kennedy’s death is a considerable loss, Beauford recognizes Larry’s art and his letter as a source of light during a dark time. For Beauford, both the practice of art and the practice of letter writing are passionate investments in the world and in other people.

It is important to note that Beauford allowed words and whole sentences to move freely in his letters to Larry. There is often no punctuation; sentences bleed into each other. One does not know where Beauford’s thoughts begin and end. Words are often misspelled. And Beauford’s handwriting is such that it is difficult for the untrained eye to decipher the message.

Portrait of a Young Man (Larry Calcagno)
(1953) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

In an essay included in the Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color catalogue, Levi Prombaum, a Ph.D. candidate at University College London, explained that Henry Miller brilliantly compared the quality of Beauford’s letters to the informal intimacy of a preacher’s speech. Beauford was the son of a preacher, so he carried the cadence of that particular rhythm with him throughout his childhood and adolescence. His letters participate in a higher order of intimacy and love, just as the words of a preacher would.

In November 1957, Beauford ended a rather long letter to Larry with the following:

As always a letter never says what one wants it to say but the necessity to write carries with it the necessity to send it so God bless you and your life and work.


When we think about sacred things, we are reminded of something that has no bounds, something that transcends our mortal existence. And it is this meaning of “sacred” that describes the boundless love that rooted itself in Beauford’s letters to Larry.

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.

Additional reading about Beauford and Larry Calcagno:
Beauford and Larry Calcagno
Larry Calcagno's Portrait of Beauford

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The "Beauford Delaney in America" Initiative

This post was contributed by Sylvia L. Peters, a native of Knoxville, Tennessee and a former member of the Board of Trustees at the Knoxville Museum of Art.

Thursdays in Knoxville are often the unofficial beginning of weekends. People are trying to decide whether to meet friends, attend cultural events, or have fun outdoors in the scenic mountains surrounding the city. In May 2016, an invitation went out from the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) and the Beck Cultural Center (BCC) to a diverse cross-section of citizens to attend a Thursday evening presentation on bringing the recent Paris exhibition, Resonance de Formes et Vibration de Couleur (Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color), to Knoxville.

Rev. Reneé Kessler, a dynamic leader in the African-American community and a great organizer who knows how to get people together, suggested that the meeting be held in the neighborhood where the Delaney family resided at the beginning of the twentieth century. Dr. David Butler, KMA Director; Stephen Wicks, KMA Curator; and the steering committee for the new Beauford Delaney Initiative in America (BDIA) agreed that the Beck Cultural Center was a good place to begin a community-driven effort to bring the Paris works of one of America’s great artists home to his birthplace – Knoxville, Tennessee.

Beck Cultural Exchange Center
Photo courtesy of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center

So, on a stormy Thursday evening in early June, 200 people gathered to hear about how they could become involved in the BDIA initiative, which is a partnership between KMA, the Beck Cultural Center, and others. The room crackled with energy and earnest curiosity as Stephen Wicks spoke of his twenty-year journey to bring Beauford’s important work to the attention of people in America and particularly, the citizens of Knoxville.

David Butler talked passionately about the small group of museum members who went to see the Paris exhibition in February and how they were so moved by the experience that they committed their time and funds to begin the effort.

Sylvia Peters, former trustee of the Knoxville Museum of Art,
"Blipps" a painting at the exhibition opening
Photo by Sophia Pagan Photography

Left to right: Stephen Wicks, curator for
the Knoxville Museum of Art;
Wokie Wicks, Monique Y. Wells at exhibition opening
Photo by Sophia Pagan Photography

Knoxville Museum of Art group on the Beauford Delaney
Commemorative Walking Tour in Paris
© Discover Paris!

Finally, Rev. Kessler spoke eloquently about BCC’s institutional commitment to one of the Delaney family homes that is adjacent to BCC’s property in East Knoxville. BCC recently purchased the old house through funds acquired from the Knoxville City government and is planning to turn the property into a space to serve people in the mostly African-American community in the area.

Such a diverse gathering is quite unusual for Knoxville. Since the June meeting, many of the attendees have talked about how positive it felt to be invited to participate in this effort. Everyone who attended left with the feeling that they wanted to be a part of this important initiative – it will take at least a year to plan, organize and raise the funds to bring the exhibit to Knoxville.

Knoxville Museum of Art at Twilight
Photo courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

This meeting reminds us of the power of the arts to engage people in great community initiatives and inspire them to achieve seemingly impossible tasks. Beauford, who suffered so much throughout his life for the sake of his art, must be proud of his hometown and grateful to Monique Wells, president of the French non-profit organization Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, for doing so much to share his art with the world.

Beauford Delaney
1953 - Photo by Carl Van Vechten

The work of planning the project has begun. We’ll keep you informed of our progress.