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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Beauford in the New York Times

On a whim, I recently decided to search Google for articles about Beauford in the New York Times.

While he is mentioned in several write-ups about art exhibitions in which his work was / is being shown or acquisitions of his paintings by museums, I found only two articles devoted entirely to his life.

The most recent is the brilliant piece written by Jake Cigainero and published last September:

Beauford Delaney Returns to the Scene


The other is an obituary, published on April 1, 1979. The author was C. Gerald Fraser, a journalist who had worked for the Times for 12 years at the time he wrote the article.

Beauford Delaney, Painter, Dies; Portraitist of the Famous Was 77


An article that comes close to being devoted exclusively to Beauford is Mel Watkins' review of David Leeming's biography, Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney:

Painting Shadows

A piece called Art in Review presents the 1994 Philippe Briet Gallery exhibition of Beauford's work entitled The New York Years (1929-1953). It was written by Roberta Smith.

This online search led me to a newspaper archive search that has 678 entries for Beauford! As time permits, I'll be delving into these articles to see what gems I can uncover and share.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Beauford's Greens

I'll never forget a discussion I led during the Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition in February 2016, where the group was contemplating the self-portrait that graces the cover of the exhibition catalog:

We were discussing the fact that Beauford chose to portray himself in green and I stated my belief that he may have chosen that color because he did not feel well at the time he painted the portrait.

Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color
Catalog cover

Artist Loulou Taÿeb, who knew Beauford personally and who painted a portrait of him, was among the visitors in the group. He commented that he thought Beauford painted himself in green because "green is a beautiful color."

Portrait of Beauford Delaney
Loulou Taÿeb
(undated) Oil on canvas
Portrait: © Loulou Taÿeb
Image: © Discover Paris!

From then on, I have paid much closer attention to the greens in Beauford's work. Today, I'm sharing a few images that demonstrate his mastery of the use of this color.

Untitled
(1962) Gouache and watercolor on wove paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire
Court Appointed Administrator
Photo courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Portrait of Jean-Loup Msika (detail)
(1971) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire
Court Appointed Administrator
Image courtesy of Jean-Loup Msika

Untitled (abstract green drip)
(1958) Gouache on paper
DCMoore Gallery
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

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

Untitled
(1965) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire
Court Appointed Administrator
Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago



Saturday, October 28, 2017

Beauford and the Delaney Family in Jefferson City, Tennessee

Beauford's father, John Samuel (Brother) Delaney, was a Methodist Episcopal preacher and a barber. In 1905, he was called to serve as pastor at the Boyd Chapel Methodist Church in Jefferson City and the entire family moved there - Delaney, his wife, Delia, and their nine children. Beauford was only three or four years old at the time.

David A. Leeming, author of Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, says the following about the family's Jefferson City abode:

Sam was installed as the pastor of the Boyd Chapel Methodist church. His only pay was help with the rent for the "parsonage" the family lived in near the church ... The house was quite small, but it had a large vegetable garden as well as a huge front yard for the young children to play in. This would be home for five years.

Delia Naomi Delaney, the tenth and last of the Delaney siblings, was born in Jefferson City. She died in 1909 at eight months of age.

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!

Boyd Chapel recently celebrated its 150th anniversary of existence.

150th Anniversary Celebration Banner
Detail from photo by Standard Banner, Jefferson City, TN

Stephen Wicks, Barbara W. and Bernard E. Bernstein Curator at the Knoxville Museum of Art, was invited to speak at their celebration on September 16. Members of the Delaney family were in the audience.

Stephen Wicks Speaks at 150th Anniversary Celebration
Photo courtesy of Reverend Dr. Andrew Smith,
pastor of Boyd Chapel UMC

Attendees at 150th Anniversary Celebration
Photo courtesy of Reverend Dr. Andrew Smith,
pastor of Boyd Chapel UMC

Stephen Wicks at table (second from left);
Delaney family member in foreground
Photo courtesy of Reverend Dr. Andrew Smith,
pastor of Boyd Chapel UMC

During his presentation, Wicks made the argument that Beauford and his brother Joseph began their artistic paths at Boyd Chapel as they spent time "shaping figures of red clay in the parsonage yard and drawing biblical illustrations on their Sunday school programs."

The Delaney family remained in Jefferson City until 1915, when they returned to their original home at 815 East Vine Street in Knoxville. The building that Boyd Chapel UMC currently occupies was constructed in 1922.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Paris, France - A Work on Paper


The Menil Collection* in Houston, TX owns a single Beauford Delaney work - a drawing called Paris, France.


Paris, France

Ink on paper
8 1/4 × 10 9/16 in. (21 × 26.8 cm)
Signed LR: "Beauford Delaney" and inscribed LC: "Paris - France"
The Menil Collection
Gift of William A. and Joan Seeman Robinson
Photograph and Digital Image © The Menil Collection
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

I learned about this piece when I visited the Menil Collection in June 2017 and met curator Michelle White. She told me that it represented a street scene in Paris and said that it was currently archived. She later generously shared this image and asked me to comment on it from the perspective of a Paris resident.

Though my initial point of reference was a Paris street scene, I believe this work is a melange of several themes.

I see several human and abstract forms in the rectangular space that makes up two-thirds of the upper half of the drawing. On the left side, I see structures that could be construed as buildings, even dwellings, but they do not remind me of Paris.

In the bottom half of the drawing, I see a human figure next to the "dwelling" in the lower left corner. Moving my eyes to the right, I see a series of arches that stretch across the length of the work. They immediately bring to mind the viaduct that supports the trains of Metro Line 6 at Pont de Bercy - a bridge that connects the 12th and 13th arrondissements. The viaduct was built in 1904.

Viaduct at Pont de Bercy
2016 Cramos
Creative Commons License

After thoughtful consideration of what this drawing might depict, I shared it with curator Stephen Wicks at the Knoxville Museum of Art (with curator White's permission) and asked him to comment on it. Wicks recently curated a solo exhibition of Beauford's work that included numerous sketches.

He responded as follows:

...this strikes me as one of his [Beauford's] small ink sketches from the mid-1960s. I see 3-4 abstracted figures in the upper center surrounded by architectural elements in the foreground (arches) and left margin (roof lines) that suggest perhaps an open air concert or performance in Montparnasse or thereabouts. As you know, he adored the performing arts and depicted musicians and other performers in many paintings and sketches throughout his career.

Beauford lived in a studio on rue Vercingétorix during the 1960s and 70s. During the early- to mid-1970s, his neighborhood underwent massive renewal - including the demolition of the building that housed his studio. It is quite possible that the buildings and other structures represented in this drawing no longer exist.

*The Menil Collection suffered no damage from Hurricane Harvey.