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 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.