Saturday, February 28, 2015

Brooklyn Museum Acquires a Beauford Delaney Painting

Les Amis is pleased to report the acquisition of one of Beauford's paintings by the Brooklyn Museum! The museum purchased the work from the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. I present excerpts from the museum's press release, dated January 2015, below.

The Brooklyn Museum has purchased a powerful painting by the twentieth-century African American modernist artist Beauford Delaney. Untitled (Fang, Crow, and Fruit) resonates deeply with other major mid-century American works in the collection by artists including Stuart Davis and Marsden Hartley, and significantly advances the Museum’s recent focus on acquiring works by African American artists that derive formal or thematic inspiration from traditional African art.

Untitled (Fang, Crow and Fruit)
(1945) Oil on canvas
25 x 30 in. (63.5 x 76.2 cm)
Brooklyn Museum
Brooklyn Museum Fund for African American Art, A. Augustus Healy Fund, and Ella C. Woodward Memorial Fund , 2014.73.
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esq., Court Appointed Administrator

The acquisition marks the fifth anniversary of the Brooklyn Museum Fund for African American Art, a collecting initiative focusing on works by African American artists created before the mid-twentieth century.

Untitled (Fang, Crow, and Fruit) dates from Delaney’s last decade in New York (before he immigrated to France, his place of residence from 1953 until his death in 1979), when his style evolved from a broad naturalism to a distinctly more commanding expressionism. He was at work in an unheated Greene Street loft at the time, and he had developed a close friendship with the writer James Baldwin, for whom he was a deeply influential early mentor. Both were seeking empowerment as black artists and gay men. Inspired and sustained artistically by a connection to African culture and art, they found support in the writings of Alain Locke, who from the mid-1920s had encouraged young black artists to derive formal inspiration from African sculpture as European modernists had done. They were attentive to Locke’s altered message of the late 1930s, when he urged artists to seek a more direct relationship with their African ancestry and identity by understanding the long-held centrality of art in African life.

In Untitled (Fang, Crow, and Fruit), Delaney arranged the composition as if representing an offering—the bowl of brilliant-yellow fruit—placed before a Fang reliquary figure from Cameroon that was in fact a well-known object that had been published in an important German volume, Negerplastik, in 1920. A bird, perhaps a spirit symbol, hovers over the fruit, while the black calligraphic forms in the background may suggest a shelter and tree in an African setting. The power of this work grows from the electric intensity of Delaney’s palette and the vibration of forms deriving from his highly animated brushwork. The bowl almost appears to spin, and the figure—suggested with deft marks—to rock.

Delaney’s very thick and lively application of paint was influenced by his interactions with Stuart Davis, with whom he had developed a close friendship and shared equal passions for painting and new jazz. Davis’s own more decoratively abstracted compositions would exert an even greater influence on Delaney’s increasingly flattened designs from 1946 until 1953. Marsden Hartley’s paintings, which were showcased in a large exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in the winter of 1944/45, are certain to have been influential on Delaney’s expressionist facture and iconic subject matter as well.

In addition to resonating with important works of American modernism in Brooklyn’s collection, Untitled (Fang, Crow, and Fruit) further strengthens the Museum’s ability to represent the vital dialogue in which African American artists engaged with traditional African art.

Brooklyn Museum

The painting’s original owner was Emanuel Redfield, a noted civil liberties attorney and counsel to the New York chapter of the Artists Equity Association. Delaney may have presented Redfield with the work as a form of payment as early as 1945, the year of its completion, when Redfield’s services were engaged to challenge a landlord who had denied access to apartments on St. Mark’s Place that [James] Baldwin and their circle of friends had planned to use as a shared living and studio space.

With the purchase of Beauford Delaney’s Untitled (Fang, Crow, and Fruit), a complex and vivid narrative enters the orbit of the Brooklyn Museum’s American Identities galleries, where it will go on view in February 2015. Joining important works on view by Eldzier Cortor, Sargent Johnson, and John Biggers, this painting will allow a deeper exploration of how references to African forms and themes in these works enacted a claiming of heritage and identity, in contrast to the references to African art in Eurocentric modernist works that embody distance, difference, and the “other.” The painting additionally offers a fresh opportunity to study the exposure of African art in New York during the interwar years, particularly in the context of the Museum’s important African holdings and their exhibition from the 1920s forward.

The work was acquired for the Brooklyn Museum by Dr. Teresa A. Carbone, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, who has played a leadership role in the creation of the African American purchase fund. The purchase was also made possible by A. Augustus Healy Fund and Ella C. Woodward Memorial Fund.

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238-6052
Telephone: (718) 638-5000
Fax: (718) 501-6134
www.brooklynmuseum.org

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Knoxville Museum of Art Acquires Beauford Delaney Paintings

In an article published in April 2013, Les Amis reported on a Beauford Delaney abstract that was shown at the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA)'s permanent installation entitled Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee.

Scattered Light
(1964) Oil on canvas
36 5/8 X 28 3/4 inches
Knoxville Museum of Art, purchase with funds provided by the Rachael Patterson Young Art Acquisition Reserve, 2015
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator

The painting was on loan. At the time, the museum owned no works by Beauford.

That has since changed. In July 2014, KMA acquired two paintings with funds provided by the KMA Collectors Circle. In August 2014, it acquired nineteen additional works, including Scattered Light. The final payment for this painting was made in January 2015.

The museum is justifiably proud of its collection, given that Knoxville is Beauford's hometown and that the museum owns one work by Beauford's brother, Joseph. Work is currently underway to photograph, mat and frame the acquired Beauford Delaney works. Special attention is being given to those that require conservation work.

Scattered Light still hangs near the Joseph Delaney painting Marble Collegiate Church in the Higher Ground installation.

Joseph Delaney (Knoxville 1904-1991 Knoxville)
(1974-75) Marble Collegiate Church
Oil paint on canvas
72 x 47 3/4 inches
Knoxville Museum of Art, gift of the artist, 1990
Image courtesy of Knoxville Museum of Art

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Beauford at Reid Hall

I am very pleased to announce that Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is engaged in discussions with Columbia Global Centers about mounting an exposition of Beauford's work at Reid Hall!

Courtyard at Reid Hall
© Discover Paris!

This show will be the second in what Columbia Global Centers hopes is a continuing series of annual events that expose African-American artists to the French public.

Currently, Reid Hall is hosting an extraordinary exhibit of six original silk screens and several reproductions of work by Beauford's contemporary, Romare Bearden. The show is entitled Paris Odyssey: Romare Bearden, Henri Matisse, and Homer. It has two themes that make it both local and global in scope: Homer's epic poems - The Odyssey and The Iliad - and jazz. Reproductions of Henri Matisse's book Jazz (1947) and several of his Odyssean drawings (1935) are displayed with reproductions of Bearden's Paris Jazz series (ca. 1980), his Iliad drawings (1946), and his Odyssey collages (1977).

Banner for Paris Odyssey - Reid Hall
© Discover Paris!

Reid Hall is located near several sites in Montparnasse where Beauford lived and worked, including his first long-term residence at the Hôtel des Ecoles on rue Delambre and his favorite cafés - the Dôme and the Select.

The exposition will feature locally-sourced works from Beauford's Paris years. Look for updates about the planning of the show on this blog.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Delaney - Downing - Lee: Group Show at the American Cultural Center in Paris - 1961

In 1961, Beauford participated in a three-person show at the American Cultural Center in Paris. The other artists whose works were displayed were painter Joe Downing and sculptor Caroline Lee.


Joe Downing was an abstract expressionist painter and a fellow southerner, hailing from the state of Kentucky and arriving in Paris in 1950. Both he and Beauford loved jazz and they spent many hours listening to music at Downing's apartment in the Marais. Paintings by these two artists also hung together in shows at the Galerie Arnaud in Paris in 1956 and at the American Cultural Center in 1965.

Downing would paint the sign that said "We Love Beauford" for the retrospective that the American Cultural Center mounted of Beauford's work in 1969.

Caroline Lee was also an American artist from Chicago who came to Paris on a Fulbright scholarship in 1958. I am unaware of any social connections that she and Beauford may have had outside of this show.

Darthea Speyer was in charge at the American Cultural Center at the time of the 1961 show. Only a few months afterward, she would take charge of Beauford's affairs when he jumped overboard while sailing to Greece to meet her for a sponsored painting excursion there. Beauford painted an exquisite portrait of her in 1965.

Darthea Speyer
(1965) Oil on canvas
Image courtesy of Galerie Darthea Speyer
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

I located a rare copy of the catalog for the Delaney - Downing - Lee exhibition at the Kandinsky Library at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Delaney - Downing - Lee catalog cover
© Discover Paris!

Art critic Julian Alvard wrote the introduction to the catalog. He was quite familiar with Beauford's work, having included it in a group show that he organized at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in 1959. He praised Beauford's art, saying it was "open to all the virtues of the sun" and declaring that Beauford had "found the grace that he sought to achieve."

The catalog contains a single page of information about each artist, including a photo and a short list of expositions. On Beauford's page, the notations for his birth year and the year he arrived in Paris are incorrect.

Beauford's page in the American Cultural Center catalog
© Discover Paris!

The catalog does not contain information about the works shown at the American Cultural Center. However, loose leaf inserts present two works by Caroline Lee, one by Joe Downing, and one by Beauford.

Untitled
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

There was no indication of the media used and no mention of a title or whether the work was dated or signed.

The Delaney-Downing-Lee exposition attracted the attention of the acclaimed art critic Jean Guichard-Meili, who was so captivated by Beauford's work that he arranged a private visit to see Beauford's entire body of work at Beauford's Clamart studio.