Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is partnering with the Wells International Foundation (WIF) to take the Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition to the U.S.!

We value your support!

TO MAKE A DONATION, CLICK HERE.
(All or part of your gift through WIF may qualify as a charitable deductible in the U.S.)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, Beauford!

Portrait of Beauford Delaney
© 1953 Carl Van Vechten

Beauford was born 109 years ago today!

I am both pleased and a little saddened as I write this posting, because I am honoring Beauford’s beginning as well as announcing an ending of sorts. I am celebrating Beauford today by presenting several of my favorite images of him and his work. But I am also placing the blog on hiatus as of today, and will no longer be bringing you information about this wonderful artist on a regular basis.

You may remember that I broached the subject of retiring the blog last month, in the posting about Les Amis’s first anniversary. In that posting, I said:

I have done my best to find information on Beauford from as many reliable sources as possible, and to present that information with clarity, integrity, and love. But I am running out of sources, and will not diminish the quality of this Web publication just for the sake of continuing on. My goal is to publish through the end of this year, targeting Beauford’s birthday (December 30) as the date of the final posting.

Be assured that I will post noteworthy information as I discover it. And I am certainly willing to publish personal anecdotes about Beauford and other information from credible sources. However, I can no longer actively and efficiently pursue the discovery process.

I will post on milestone dates such as the anniversary of Beauford’s death. I will also begin publishing regularly again if Les Amis decides to pursue one of the projects that I mentioned in the November posting (example: creating a scholarship fund in Beauford’s name). There is some activity underway to create a short film about Beauford, and I hope to have good news about the progression of this project within the next few months. So do check back periodically! Follow the blog or pull its content through RSS so that you do not miss anything.

I encourage you all to purchase a copy of Beauford’s biography – Amazing Grace. It is the only book that chronicles Beauford’s life. It is a quick read that captures Beauford’s spirit admirably. Note that Les Amis earns a few cents on each book purchased through the links found in this and other postings, as well as through the link in the sidebar.

Before going on to the images, I would like to thank all the people who contributed to the blog once again – you know who you are – and to say that we will remain in touch through e-mail and Facebook.

Happy Birthday, Beauford! Long live your art and your memory!

A young Beauford Delaney
Photo: African-American Registry


 Still Life with Pears
(1946) Oil on canvas
Private collection


Composition 16
(1954-56) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney; Private Collection
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York , NY


Beauford on the deck of the SS Liberté
Photo from David Leeming’s Amazing Grace


Detail of Self-Portrait
(1944) Oil on canvas
Art Institute of Chicago
Photo courtesy of Tim Paulson


Portrait of Beauford Delaney
(ca. 1950)
Possibly by Gjon Mili


Self-Portrait
(1962) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney; Private Collection
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York , NY


Greenwich Village
(1945) Oil on canvas
Private collection


Beauford's Paint Box
© Discover Paris!


Untitled
(1964-65) Oil on canvas
Bill Hodges Gallery, New York


Nativity Scene
(1961) Oil on canvas
Private collection


Portrait of Beauford Delaney
Georgia O'Keeffe
(1943) Pastel on paper
Curtis Galleries, Minneapolis, MN

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Beauford Delaney Letters

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
© 2007 – Dmadeo

The Schomburg Center in Manhattan holds an archive of twenty-four pieces of correspondence that pertain to Beauford. They date from 1958-1963. Eighteen of these are personal letters written by Beauford to Lynn Stone, a friend and supporter from his “New York Years.” Biographer David Leeming refers to Stone several times in Amazing Grace, citing that she visited Beauford in Paris during the summers of 1956 and 1962, and that she was the instigator of the idea that the Urban League sponsor an exposition of Beauford’s works. (This idea would never come to fruition.) He indicates that she gave Beauford a blanket and warm clothes to help him survive the cold winter of 1963 at his rue Vercingétorix studio, and that Beauford wrote to her about his love of reading “wisdom literature of the Far East.”

The Schomburg has many additional letters concerning the Urban League exposition. One was written by James Baldwin in his capacity as chairman of the committee charged with raising money for the show. Two were written by Edward C. Califano, the director of Galerie Internationale – an organization that was to be a partner in the exposition. Two others represent correspondence between Lynn Stone and Beauford’s dear friend Charlie Boggs.

The Schomburg archive presents a rare opportunity to view Beauford’s personal papers and to read firsthand his reflections about himself and others as well as his life philosophy. The library Web site lists call number Sc MG 217 as the reference for the archive.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
New York, NY 10037-1801
Telephone: 212-491-2200
Closed Mondays

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Colin Gravois Remembers Beauford

Colin Gravois has lived in Paris / Ile de France since 1968. He met Beauford when Beauford lived on rue Vercingétorix, and has very fond memories of him. Colin spoke at the gravesite ceremony that Les Amis held at Thiais Cemetery on October 14th. He recently recounted his memories of Beauford in an interview at his office in Antony (a suburb located south of Paris).

Colin Gravois at Beauford’s Graveside Commemoration Ceremony
© Franz Fox Kennedy

Upon arriving in Paris, Colin lived for five years at the Hôtel de Blois at 50, rue Vavin, which was located very near the café Select on boulevard du Montparnasse. (The hotel was a functioning brothel when Colin lived there, with the first three floors being used for "business" and the three upper floors being reserved for long-term residents.) He recalls that the rent was only 10 francs a day – roughly $2 in those times – and that the one franc per day increase that the hotel proprietor charged in 1974 was considered a big deal!

Colin would often have breakfast at the Dôme, which was only a stone’s throw from his hotel. (The café still stands on the corner of boulevard du Montparnasse and rue Delambre.) The Dôme is where he met Beauford in 1968 or 1969. Beauford would come in at around 9 AM every day – alone – to have breakfast, and Colin became accustomed to seeing him there. He remembers being impressed by Beauford’s “beatific smile.” Colin said that Beauford seemed wary that people might try to take advantage of him, so at first he did not attempt to engage Beauford in conversation about personal things.

At that time, the Dôme had a sidewalk terrace (it is enclosed today). Colin recalls that Beauford always wanted to sit on the terrace in the front row, facing the street. In this way, he could watch people as they passed by. Beauford knew lots of people, so he was often quite busy greeting friends and acquaintances when he was at the Dôme.

Terrace of the Dôme Café, 1959
Photo from Cafés d’Artistes à Paris (photo credit-Archives)

Le Dôme, today
© Discover Paris!

Eventually, Colin offered to take Beauford back to his studio on rue Vercingétorix in the large black sedan (of the type used for London cabs) that he drove around town. He did this a few times before Beauford invited him up to the studio. Colin recalls that the entrance was au fond de la cour (at the back of the courtyard), and that it was up a flight of stairs. His most vivid memory of the studio is that everything was covered with white sheets.

Colin remembers that Beauford would occasionally take meals at the Coupole, and that he also liked to eat at a restaurant called Les Mille Colonnes on rue de la Gaité. This was not very far from his studio, and it also happened to be a place where Colin and his friends invariably had dinner. Beauford would always join them if he was there. At Les Mille Colonnes, starters and desserts cost only 90 centimes, and main courses cost 3.50 francs.  Though these prices were “Beauford's style” (affordable), Colin and his friends would chip in most of the time to take care of Beauford’s bill.

By the early 1970s, Colin began to note early signs of Beauford’s mental deterioration, mostly in the form of forgetfulness. Around 1973, he gave Beauford four large canvases that he has previously used for a promotional event. Beauford was grateful to receive them, and this strengthened the bond between him and Colin.

Colin’s favorite memory of Beauford is of taking him for rides in his big black cab. He named the car “Bill” because the license plate began with the letters “BLL.” Because the space next to the driver was reserved for luggage, Beauford always sat in the back, as a taxi passenger would do. He had an excellent vantage point for viewing the city because the seat was high, and Colin remembers that Beauford would look out the window at the buildings, cars, and pedestrians with a big smile on his face.

A London Taxicab
Photo: Wikipedia

Colin was unequivocal when he said that the most important aspects that he remembers of Beauford’s persona were his kindness and gentleness – the same attributes that numerous others have cited in this blog and elsewhere.

Beauford painted a portrait of Colin at the Vercingétorix studio in 1975. Colin sat for Beauford several times as the painting took shape. He remembers being seated in an armchair wearing a green army jacket for the sittings. When it was almost done, Colin had his friend Kathleen photograph him with the painting, with Colin posing in the chair where he sat for the painting and the painting perched behind and above him. Kathleen also took several photographs of Beauford’s studio at that time. Colin said that Beauford’s signature appeared on the painting as though it had been done in pencil.

Colin then went on a trip to the U.S., thinking that he would retrieve the painting upon his return. But by the time he came back to Paris, Beauford had been taken to Saint Anne’s Hospital and his studio had been vacated. Colin never saw the portrait again. He is hoping that his friend Kathleen will be able to find the photos that she took so that he will have some visual record of himself with the painting, as well as the studio.

Upon Beauford’s commitment to Saint Anne’s, James Baldwin most likely moved the painting to an apartment on rue des Anglais in the 5th arrondissement where he stored Beauford’s works and other belongings on a temporary basis. Several of these would later be shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem retrospective organized by Richard A. Long.

In looking at the catalog of that exhibition, I came across an image of a painting called Portrait of a Man in Green. Intrigued by the parallels that I noted in Colin’s description of Beauford’s painting of him and what I saw in the image, I contacted Colin to see if he could identify the portrait.

Portrait of a Man in Green
Beauford Delaney
Oil (undated)
Photo from catalog of Beauford Delaney: A Retrospective
Studio Museum in Harlem

Both he and his daughter immediately identified Colin as the person represented there! In addition to the physical likeness (curly hair, moustache and goatee) and the armchair and green jacket, Colin said that he always wore his wristwatch on the right arm. The man in Beauford’s portrait also has a wristwatch on the right wrist.

What a fortuitous outcome to my interview!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beauford Describes Beauford: Beauford's Tribute to Henry Miller

Here is yet another contribution to the Les Amis blog by Beauford's dear friend Burt Reinfrank.  Though I have thanked Burt privately for these guest postings, I want to do so publicly today.  Burt has been one of my staunchest supports regarding the blog, and everything else concerning Beauford and the gravesite project.  Thank you, Burt!

Though the title of the painting shown below is Self Portrait,  Burt indicated that he believes it is a composite of Beauford and Henry Miller.  What do you think?

**************
Burt writes:

After a day out together with Beauford we passed by Beauford’s studio. Beauford said to my first wife Sara, “You type well. I’ve written a homage to Henry Miller but my handwriting is so bad I would really like to send it typed if you could do that for me.” Sara took the handwritten copy and several days later I returned the typed version to Beauford. When I read what Beauford had written to describe how he saw Henry Miller, I thought, “He is describing himself.” I have never met Miller and for Beauford it may be Miller. But for me it is Beauford.


 
Beauford Delaney (1901-1979)
Self Portrait, 1962
oil on canvas
25 1/2" x 21 1/4" x 3/4", signed 
© Estate of Beauford Delaney; Private Collection
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC,  New York , NY


Beauford wrote:

H E N R Y M I L L E R

Henry Miller is a transcentdental [sic] spirit whose vision illumens [sic] the cosmic heritage of mankind. His constant growth of enlightenment includes the unity and obligations of the human family, to honor one and all with patience and understanding of the universal oneness of our varied heritage. His understanding of this unique necessity and truth flows through all of his writing, his painting, and includes varieties of joy, and some patience with the painful human condition in its search for clarity, offering himself to problems, vision and minute observation, arousing intention by awareness and urgency, through methods of philosophical techniques, and finding time to persuade all of us to look back as well as forward into our historical past, and by so doing, augment the present with our findings of the differences and sameness of each epoch, including art, science and philosophy, giving light to the eternal heritage of all mankind, with joy and selflessness, devotion and infinite patience.

What sometimes seems impossible, his faith augments by years of discovery of himself, and with joy accomplishes the almost impossible task of uniting into his art the entire substance of this experience. This source in a work of art has magnetism and engages all mankind, because, like the “sun”, it is eternal and benevolent. Miller reveals to all people that life is a miracle to be lived and exploited to release its fullness.

Beauford Delaney
****************

In conjunction with this posting, I am pleased to announce that Dorothy's Gallery has mounted an exposition called Henry Miller aux jeunes artists d'aujourd'hui that features twenty original works and lithographs by Miller.  On Saturday, December 11, at 7:30 PM, the gallery will host an evening performance in homage of Miller's writing and painting entitled Tropique d'Os.

I believe that Beauford would be very pleased!

Dorothy's Gallery
27, rue Keller
75011 Paris
Telephone: 01 43 57 08 51
Internet: http://www.dorothysgallery.com
Email : dorothysgallery@gmail.com
Métro : Bastille, Voltaire
Parking : Ledru Rollin et Opéra Bastille
Open Wednesday through Saturday from 1 PM to 7 PM
Tuesday and Sunday from 4 PM to 7 PM

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brief Musings on Beauford and James Baldwin

Baldwin, Beauford, and Lucien Happersberger in Paris, 1953
Photo from James Baldwin by David Leeming
 
James Baldwin died twenty-three years ago today. He was among the best friends that Beauford had.

Baldwin owed a great deal to his friendship with Beauford. In The Price of the Ticket, he states that his career began when his life in Greenwich Village began, and that this life began when he met Beauford. He describes how he walked into color and into music when he walked into Beauford’s studio at 181 Greene Street. In his inimitable style, he pays tribute to the man whose unshakable example of “courage and integrity, humility and passion” gave him the strength to survive and the ability to hope for a future.

Much later, Baldwin would become Beauford’s source of strength during his “Paris Years.” It was Baldwin’s turn to introduce Beauford to people around town in the early days, and to provide council and comfort when Beauford more frequently became depressed or distraught.

Beauford and James Baldwin at the American Cultural Center
(1970s) United States Information Service

He would do this (or at least attempt to do this) in the face of his own emotional crises. Baldwin would “send for” Beauford when his friend suffered psychological episodes or physical illness, having Beauford join him in Saint-Paul de Vence. But at the very end, Baldwin did not come to Beauford’s funeral due to illness and other problems. He deeply regretted this, and spoke of his feelings in an interview with his secretary and biographer, David Leeming.

Beauford would paint Baldwin many times. Here are a few examples:

Dark Rapture, as it appears in Amazing Grace
Portrait (oil on board) dates from 1941

Portrait of James Baldwin
Beauford Delaney
(1945) Oil on canvas
Philadelphia Museum of Art

James Baldwin
Beauford Delaney
(1963) Pastel on Paper
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute

As do all of Beauford’s portraits, these paintings of James Baldwin depict much more than his physical likeness. They express Baldwin’s “life essence” as Beauford saw it at various stages of Baldwin’s life – his accomplishments, his insecurities, his hopes and dreams. They also represent the deepest, most profound expressions of Beauford’s love for Baldwin.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Les Amis de Beauford Delaney's First Anniversary!

One year ago today, the Journal Officiel published an announcement declaring Les Amis de Beauford Delaney a bona-fide non-profit association in France. It seems like only a few weeks ago!

As president of the association, I am proud to say that we have accomplished every element of the mission that we presented to the government as part of our application for official status:

1. Placement and maintenance of a tombstone for the grave of painter Beauford Delaney, who is buried at the Parisian Cemetery of Thiais.

2. Payment of the renewal fees for his grave.

3. Organization of commemorative or educational events in his honor.

4. Inform the press and the media of his life and accomplishments.

Journal Officiel Announcement
24 November 2009

The placement of the tombstone was our overriding goal. I hope that you have all seen the postings about the gravesite ceremony and the reception held at the Marshall Center last month. We now have the funds to pay for the maintenance of the tombstone for a year, as well as to renew Beauford’s concession at Thiais Cemetery. However, we must wait, until January 2011 to establish the maintenance contract with the funeral parlor and to conclude the transaction with the cemetery.

Beauford's new tombstone
(c) Discover Paris!

Regarding organizing commemorative or education events in Beauford’s honor, we did extremely well! I have spoken about Beauford three times this year, including a successful presentation at the George R. N’Namdi Gallery in Chicago. Most importantly, we exceeded expectations with the commemorative ceremony and reception held in October!

We have made significant progress in informing the press and the media of Beauford’s life and accomplishments as well. Two newspaper articles (that I know of) were published about our project earlier this year. Prissy Mag, an online magazine, ran a terrific article about the reception that we held at the Marshall Center, and editor Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen also talked extensively about Beauford, his work, and the Gravesite Project on a radio interview with Paris Expat last month. I revised Wikipedia’s English language page on Beauford with a section called “The Beauford Delaney Burial Site.”

Musician and artist Joe Langley has posted his video of the reception on YouTube. Filmmaker Zachary James Miller is planning to create a short film on Beauford’s life and work for the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and has already begun work by filming the gravesite ceremony and the reception. And two additional filmmakers have expressed interest in making feature films about Beauford’s life.

The biggest question for Les Amis at present is “Where do we go from here?” Several things are under consideration:

• An annual Beauford Delaney commemoration, to be held in Paris

• Placement of a plaque in Beauford’s honor on a building in Paris

• An exposition of Beauford’s paintings in Paris

• A scholarship to support an art student in Beauford’s name.

Of course, time and money will be required to successfully pursue any one of these projects. I am mulling over the possibilities for fundraising, and even more importantly, for finding people who are willing to help with implementation.

Finally, I am seriously considering retiring this blog! I have done my best to find information on Beauford from as many reliable sources as possible, and to present that information with clarity, integrity, and love. But I am running out of sources, and will not diminish the quality of this Web publication just for the sake of continuing on. My goal is to publish through the end of this year, targeting Beauford’s birthday (December 30) as the date of the final posting.

If any of you have information pertaining to Beauford that you believe is worthy of publication, or if you know of anyone who has such information, please contact me at amisdebeauford[at]yahoo[dot]com. As long as there is something worth publishing, I am willing to write about it!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beauford and the Influence of Claude Monet

Everyone in Paris who has an interest in art is talking about Claude Monet these days. The huge retrospective of this revered Impressionist painter at the Grand Palais is sold out through the end of the exposition on January 24, 2011! Not to mention the fact that the 170th anniversary of his birth (November 14, 1840) was just a few days ago, and the 84th anniversary of his death (December 5, 1926) is rapidly approaching.  Amidst the buzz, I thought it appropriate to look at how Monet’s work influenced Beauford.

Beauford first saw Monet’s work in Boston, shortly after Monet died. The exposition was held in the studio of American artist John Singer Sargent, whose work also influenced Beauford. In the biography Amazing Grace, author David Leeming indicates that Beauford “found a serious attempt to understand the effects of different stages of daylight on color and form” in Monet’s paintings. Citing Monet’s Water Lily (French translation: Nymphéas) series, Leeming also states that Monet’s view of light as subject matter during his later years is suggestive of the abstract expressionism that Beauford would adopt years later.

In the catalog for the 2004-2005 Minneapolis Institute of Arts exposition Beauford Delaney: From New York to Paris, curator Sue Canterbury notes that Beauford arrived in Paris the same year that the Orangerie, home to Monet’s famous murals, was reopened (1953). She says that French gallery owner Paul Facchetti attested to the fascination that Americans had for Monet, and that they “all rushed like flies to one place: the Orangerie” to see the famous murals. Notes for her essay on Beauford’s “transatlantic transformation” indicate that Beauford mentioned Monet to his biographer Leeming on several occasions, and that friends of Beauford (including Ed Clark) believe that Monet’s work influenced Beauford’s early experiments with abstraction in Paris.

Nymphéas (detail)
(1920-1926) Oil on canvas
Claude Monet
Musée de l’Orangerie

In the same catalog, Michael D. Plante states that Beauford may have seen Monet’s paintings at the Orangerie in September, the month that he arrived in Paris. He describes in detail how Monet’s influence can be seen in Beauford’s paintings as early as 1954.

Richard A. Long arranged two visits with Beauford to see Monet’s works during the early 1970s – first to the Orangerie, and then to the Marmottan (not yet called Musée Marmottan Monet) shortly after the opening of the Monet galleries there.

Nymphéas
(1916) Oil on canvas
Claude Monet
Musée Marmottan Monet

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Web site has an interesting education section for young students called Object in Focus. One of the “objects” is Beauford’s raincoat painting Untitled (1954), which students are encouraged to compare and contrast to Monet’s The Japanese Bridge (c. 1923-1925). Both paintings are part of the museum’s permanent collection.

Untitled (raincoat painting)
Beauford Delaney
(1954) Oil on raincoat fragment
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Photo courtesy of Sue Canterbury

The Japanese Bridge
(ca. 1923-1925) Claude Monet
Minneapolis Institute of Arts

The Michael Rosenfeld Gallery showed three of Beauford’s paintings in a 2009 exposition called Abstract Expressionism: Further Evidence. The catalog for this show describes Beauford’s Paris abstractions as “lyrical, colorful, [and] non-objective” and “pure and simplified expressions of light.” It goes on to say that “the paintings have clear ties to Monet’s studies of light…”

I believe that Beauford would have been first in line to see the current Monet exposition at the Grand Palais – if he could have gotten a ticket! I plan to go to the Orangerie to see Monet’s murals in honor of the occasion.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's Not What You Think!

David Leeming indicates in his biography Amazing Grace that Beauford was rarely painted nudes because of his shyness.  This makes the remembrance below, provided by Burt Reinfrank, even more interesting!

*******************

It was a beautiful, sunny autumn afternoon when I knocked on Beauford’s studio door. I heard the echo of Beauford’s voice back in the studio saying “I’m coming.” I could hear him shuffling to the door. It opened and Beauford, with hand outstretched, said “Come in.” I did and, as I looked down the narrow corridor, with white sheets hanging on both sides, into the studio, I saw a naked young man standing facing me full frontal reaching for his pants saying “It's not what you think, it's not what you think!” I hadn’t thought anything at that point, and Beauford was unperturbed.

As it happened, the young man (American) had recently been a guest of Jimmy Baldwin at his house in St. Paul de Vence, as had Beauford at the same time. While there, Beauford had started but not finished a nude portrait of him, which was now on an easel where Beauford was continuing to work on it.


Beauford's Paint Box
© Discover Paris!

My entrance had interrupted this sitting so we all sat down to a tea Beauford made for us. The young man (about 30) was from the western U.S. and lived on a property where the boundaries of three states came together. He regaled us with stories of that region.

That was the only time I saw this young man (circa 1965). But recently, in 2010, I saw a photograph of a group of Delaney paintings in a store room, one of which was a portrait of a nude man. I wonder if it is the finished version of “It’s not what you think”?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Redhead in His Bed

Burt Reinfrank kindly sent the following anecdote about Beauford in his later years, when he was living at the studio on rue Vercingétorix. He indicated that this is a story that is told by others as well as himself.

********************

Beauford at his rue Vercingétorix studio, 1972

It was a fall Saturday morning. Signs of a colder winter to come were in the air. Beauford’s health and his mental state had been slowly failing. The question was how much longer could he continue to live on his own? I had signed him up for a local version of Meals on Wheels, which worked for a while. But he had started to drink again. Some of his friends said squatters were trying to move into his studio.

I approached his door with a certain apprehension. At my knock I heard Beauford’s shuffle. The door opened and Beauford led me into his studio. On the small table by the arm chair were a couple of partly filled glasses of red wine and an almost empty wine bottle. The bed, with its traditional top cover of a white sheet, was made up but as I looked harder it seemed there was something in it and at the head, sticking out from the top of the sheet, a mass of long red hair. I thought “Good God. Beauford has a redheaded women in his bed.”

Beauford said nothing, and as I surveyed the scene the head from which the hair came slowly worked its way out of the bed. It was not a woman but a younger man along in his 30s who introduced himself as "Michael" and immediately went into the kitchen and made us all a coffee. Apparently he’d moved in with Beauford a short time before. He prepared Beauford’s food and they were obviously drinking a lot of red wine.

This was certainly one of the “squatters” I had heard mentioned in a negative way, but I thought this was what Beauford needed considering the condition he was in. Apart from the wine, the “squatter” got the food, prepared it, kept Beauford company, etc.

For some time, each time I visited I would give Beauford some cash which was a part of a payment for a painting I had bought from him. I now started giving the cash directly to Michael to pay for the food etc. he bought for the two of them. I trusted him and it worked well as long as it lasted.

Some said squatters might be stealing Beauford’s work. I asked Michael what he saw and he said no one had been by the studio except a young woman who came in, picked up a painting and left. She and Beauford seemed to know each other as they kissed both on her coming and going. I couldn’t think of anyone that Beauford knew who was young enough to meet that young lady’s description. To me, who she was still remains a mystery.

After Michael’s departure some weeks later Beauford’s health continued to decline.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Celebrating Beauford! – The Reception

We left Thiais Cemetery at about 5:20 PM to go to the George C. Marshall Center. Though traffic was again a major challenge, we managed to get back into town about ten minutes before the reception was due to begin. We were greeted graciously by the staff of the U.S. Embassy’s public affairs department at the gate to the Hôtel Talleyrand on rue Saint-Florentin in the 1st arrondissement, and led up the grand staircase into the State Office, where refreshment awaited us. There was a true sense of love and camaraderie in the air as people mingled, renewed old acquaintances, and made new ones.

Invitees enjoying the cocktail
© Discover Paris!

Both film and photography captured this magical “second act” of the day’s event, which unfolded as the setting sun illuminated the Dome Church and the Eiffel Tower that were visible from the State Office and the adjacent Grand Reception Room.

Approximately fifty persons gathered for the culmination of the celebration of Beauford’s life and art that evening. A beautiful program with photos of Beauford outlined the order of events.

Program cover

I welcomed everyone, and then presented the U.S. Mission’s new Cultural Attaché, Rafik Mansour. Mr. Mansour spoke eloquently about the African-American presence in Paris, and how Beauford was a perfect example of this presence.

Cultural Attaché Rafik Mansour
© Discover Paris!

Ammon Hall-Moore sang “God Bless the Child,” followed by personal tributes from Velma Bury and Richard Gibson. ferricia-fatia (vocals) and Sabine Boyer (flute) then performed a moving rendition of “Freedom Day.”

Ammon Hall-Moore
© Discover Paris!

Richard Gibson
© Discover Paris!

I then presented “Beauford Delaney: From Paris to Beyond” – giving an overview of Beauford’s life that concentrated on his favorite haunts and his studios in Paris, and providing an introduction to his art. Finally, I described the events leading up to the installation of Beauford’s tombstone, and briefly discussed what projects Les Amis de Beauford Delaney might undertake in the future.

Though we were due to vacate the premises at 9 PM, everyone (including the Embassy staff) was having such a good time that we continued to commune in the State Office for another half-hour or so.

After the presentation
© Discover Paris!

As the last few persons descended the Grand Staircase to leave the Hôtel Talleyrand, I could finally embrace the fact that Les Amis de Beauford Delaney has accomplished its mission.

To see more photos of the Celebrating Beauford! reception, click here.

For a video that presents some of the guests at the reception, as well as excerpts of the presentations, click here. Special thanks to Joe Langley for providing Les Amis with this film clip!

Once again, I wholeheartedly thank everyone who helped us to achieve our goal. Les Amis de Beauford Delaney will carry on with its efforts to raise awareness of Beauford’s life and art, and is counting on your continued support!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Celebrating Beauford! – The Gravesite Ceremony

On October 14, 2010, a group of seventeen persons began gathering at place de la Concorde at around 2 PM for our trek out to Thiais Cemetery for the gravesite ceremony to inaugurate Beauford’s tombstone. We boarded a minibus and left at roughly 2:45 PM. Due to the transit strike, our musicians were barely able to make it to place de la Concorde by car in time. Once they arrived, however, they followed our bus – and did a great job of keeping up despite the heavy traffic!

We arrived at the cemetery in good time, and found Beauford’s division (Division 86) freshly manicured for the ceremony. The weather was picture perfect on this brisk autumn day – it was as though Beauford himself had ordered the light that shone on his gravesite and all of us who gathered there to honor him.

There were additional guests who were waiting for us at the gravesite. There was embracing among those who had not seen each other for a while, and everyone took a few moments to look at the tombstone. Then, we began the ceremony.

Gathering around the tombstone
© Discover Paris!

I welcomed everyone, and then invited The Reverend Doctor Scott Herr from the American Church to come forward. I was particularly pleased that Scott could participate because Beauford’s funeral was held at the American Church, and because he is personally acquainted with the pastor who presided over Beauford’s funeral – Reverend Scott Campbell.

Scott (Herr) said a few words and read a couple of Beauford’s favorite scriptures – Psalm 23 and 1 Corinthians 13. Then, three personal friends of Beauford – Velma Bury, Colin Gravois, and Richard Gibson – gave personal tributes to him.

Reverend Scott Herr reciting scripture
© Discover Paris!

Velma Bury addresses the gathering
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Colin Gravois speaks about Beauford
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Richard Gibson recounts stories about Beauford
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Singer ferricia-fatia then poured a libation in honor of Beauford, and sang a beautiful rendition of “Come Sunday” with Sabine Boyer accompanying her on the flute.

Sabine Boyer and ferricia-fatia
© Discover Paris!

Finally, I briefly recounted how my first interview with Beauford’s personal friend Burt Reinfrank made me understand that Beauford was not only a man of this world, but also one who experienced life on a higher, cosmic plane. I then laid an arrangement of yellow roses on the tombstone. (According to the David Leeming biography Amazing Grace, Beauford loved roses.)

Monique Y. Wells with yellow roses
© Discover Paris!

The ceremony ended with Scott reciting Richard A. Long’s poem “Ascending,” which was written in Beauford’s honor, and saying a final prayer. Participants took another few minutes to admire the tombstone, and we then regained the bus and car and set out for the Marshall Center in Paris.

Reverend Scott Herr reciting “Ascending” and giving the final prayer
© Discover Paris!

Back to the minibus
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To see more photos of the Celebrating Beauford! gravesite ceremony, click here.

Next week: the reception!