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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Beauford at Christie's New York

A beautiful yellow abstract by Beauford is being auctioned by Christie's New York during its Post-War to Present sale on February 28.

Abstraction No. 4
(ca. 1965) Oil on canvas
51 x 38 1/8 in. (129.5 x 96.8 cm.)
signed 'Beauford Delaney' (upper right)
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

The date given for the painting is circa 1965. In November of that year, Beauford wrote the following to his dear friend, Henry Miller:

"Something has happened to my color and the paintings seem to have sunlight and the feeling sometimes of all you wonderful people it has been my privilege to have as friends and architects of the spirit."

Abstraction No. 4 seems to embody this spirit. It is listed as Lot 3 in the Christie's catalog and its estimated sale price is $100,000 to $150,000.

For more information about the sale, click HERE.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Beauford in Ink

From what I've seen over the years, Beauford rarely used ink when he created colored abstract works on paper. Because of a recent inquiry regarding the sale of one of his paintings from Darthea Speyer's collection at Christie's in Paris in 2010, I was reminded of this beautiful work on paper, which was sold at the same auction.

(1961) Ink, inkwash, and aquarelle on paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Beauford signed and dated this work and dedicated it as follows:

"Mallorca 1961 for miss Darthea Speyer"

Beauford traveled to San Telmo in Mallorca in late August 1961 with Charley and Gita Boggs; their son, Gordon, and Joe and Bernice O'Reilly. The Boggses were dear, long-time friends who had sent out a plea for funds to pay for Beauford's medical expenses after his mental breakdown in Greece the month before. They took responsibility for him upon his return to France while they and other friends sought a solution for his precarious physical and mental state. Beauford had traveled to Greece to meet Darthea Speyer; it was she who organized his medical care in Greece and his return to France.

From biographer David Leeming's account of this trip in Amazing Grace, we know that Beauford was soothed by the company of Gita and Bernice and that he "even began to do some watercolors."

In this work, the brilliant yellow background is overlaid by wide, irregular, sinuous bands of black with smudged to feathery edges, some of which are tinged with blue and / or outlined in white. These latter areas almost seem electric. Perhaps we can interpret the black bands as the darkness that permeated his spirit during these difficult days and the "electric" zones as sparks of hope that he would once again feel whole and happy in the light represented by the yellow backdrop.

The only other colored ink abstract work that I recall seeing was shown in the 2016 Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition in Paris.

(1956) Inks on paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

1956 was the first year Beauford stayed in Clamart. Richard A. Long, who organized the first retrospective of Beauford’s work at the Studio Museum of Harlem in 1978, described works from this period as being characterized “either by a somber palette or by the sheer power of clashing color masses”.

Here, we are clearly in the realm of the latter. The red mass in the center of the paper projects boldly upward at a slight angle, while the tortuous, underlying black mass leads the eye downward in opposition. The red mass seems rigid and inanimate, while the black seems fluid, even serpentine, with the head of the coiled snake poised to strike.

Swaths of lighter color soften the work while simultaneously enhancing the contrast between its two main thrusts of energy, each of which represents power in a different form.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Beauford in God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin

Dark Rapture is the first portrait that Beauford painted of James Baldwin.

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

It is one of three featured works of art by Beauford in the exhibition entitled God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin, curated by writer Hilton Als and showing at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York. New York Times writer Holland Cotter describes Dark Rapture as the centerpiece of the show.

God Made My Face - Dark Rapture
Image courtesy of David Zwirner Gallery

God Made My Face
is Als' piercingly personal look at Baldwin's life and work. The first, autobiographical section of the two-part show, called "The Walker in the City," presents Baldwin in New York and Paris. Visitors will find it in the 525 Gallery. This is the section in which Beauford's paintings are hung.

Rehearsal, a 1952 figurative painting, hangs next to a photo of Baldwin's stepfather, David Baldwin (who was a preacher).

Beauford's Rehearsal and photo of David Baldwin
Image courtesy of David Zwirner Gallery

An untitled Beauford Delaney abstract from 1963 hangs next to two black & white photos of 1900s Paris by Eugène Atget.

Beauford's Untitled and Atget photos
Image courtesy of David Zwirner Gallery

Other artists whose works appear in the show include Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Sedat Pakay, Glenn Ligon, and Kara Walker. One of these artists, Marlene Dumas, contributed a series of fourteen portraits called Baldwin and, 2014-2018 to the show - including one of Baldwin and one of Beauford. Beauford's portrait hangs at the far left of the series.

Marlene Dumas series
Image courtesy of David Zwirner Gallery

Beauford Delaney, 2018
Marlene Dumas
Ink, graphite, and metallic acrylic on paper
Image courtesy of David Zwirner Gallery

In an article published in The New Yorker, Als describes Beauford as Baldwin's "other father, a gay father." He is planning to curate a show of Beauford's work later this year.

God Made My Face
is on display through February 16, 2019.

David Zwirner Gallery
525 and 533 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Telephone: 212-727-2070


Listen to this interview with Hilton Als about God Made My Face. From 5:06 to 10:22, Als and interviewer Savona Bailey-McClain talk about Beauford and James Baldwin.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Happy Birthday, Delia Delaney!

Beauford's mother, Delia Elizabeth Johnson Delaney, was born in Richmond, Virginia on February 1, 1865.

In the Joseph Delaney biography The Life, Art, and Times of Joseph Delaney, author Frederick C. Moffatt describes her as "the family's emotional anchor and its stealthy exhorter." Beauford's biographer, David Leeming, describes her as "the much deferred-to matriarch of the Delaney household."

The portrait of Delia Delaney represented below is my favorite of the ones I have seen by Beauford.

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

It would be interesting to know whether Delia actually sat for any of the portraits Beauford did of her!

Photo of the Delaney Family, 1909
Top, left to right: Samuel Emery, John Samuel, Delia
Bottom, left to right: Joseph, Ogust Mae, Beauford, Naomi
Photo from du Closel archive
Image © Discover Paris!