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!

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(All or part of your gift through WIF may qualify as a charitable deductible in the U.S.)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Race, Society, and Canvas: The Amazing Grace of Beauford Delaney

By now, E.L. Kornegay, Jr. needs no introduction to regular readers of this blog. His articles provide us with fresh insight into Beauford's life and art. Today he brings us Part Three of "re-Searching Beauford Delaney."

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Race, Society, and Canvas: The Amazing Grace of Beauford Delaney
re-Searching Beauford Delaney: part three
E. L. Kornegay Jr., Ph.D.


One of the things most underappreciated about the artistry of Beauford Delaney is the effort expended by Beauford and the cost exacted from him to beat back the social dross of a society bent and broken apart by racism. Beauford did not necessarily paint what he lived – he painted his resistant hope for a world that was yet to exist. Whether he ever realized that it was moving in the direction of his paintings is somewhat of a mystery. One thing that I do know is that living in the tension of racism and a society that failed to embrace his blackness, his masculinity, thwarted his ability to love openly and challenged the hope of his soul. This drove him out of America and, dare I say, out of his mind.

What Beauford left behind for us is amazing. In spite of depression and oppression he was able to leave a message on canvas of a world above the one in which he existed. It is by grace that he shaped a way for the images of a world envisioned in his mind to find their way onto the serene landscape of his canvas.

Race and racism have broken many people and communities of color. This was Beauford’s experience. The benevolence shown by white sponsors and A-list associations with entertainers and artists afforded him little relief from the racist conundrum faced by the exceptional Negro. Beauford was exceptional, but still Negro.


Against this backdrop, biographer David Leeming draws us a picture of the life and work of Beauford Delaney. To Leeming’s credit, Amazing Grace is a rich accounting of a black artist striving to live in the spirit of his gift in a world that sought to diminish his worth. The text is as much a chronicle of the growing pains of a nation and humanity as it is a singular tale of Beauford’s dogged determination to be an artist. This is what made Beauford the human being that he was – he was graced with the power to capture not what he saw with his natural eye, but what he saw with his spirit. However, Amazing Grace is limited by the disconnection between its author and a social context that was viewed, but not necessarily lived.

Those of us who have experienced the racism and bigotry of American society firsthand share in the knowledge of how it divides the mind and seeks separation of body and soul, leaving the latter to fend for itself. Living is a battle on multiple fronts, with the lack of relief or safety often ending in wonderful gifts and unrivaled beauty being lost in various forms of addiction – or, in the case of Beauford, a formal withdrawal from deliberating the troubles of this world.

The toil, the never ending of toil of life, can cause the best of us to lose balance. Beauford slipped in and out this world and sanity as he toiled. Eventually he became too tired to fight, finally giving in, but not before leaving his gift intact on canvas.

Leeming reminds his readers over and over again of the power of Beauford’s spirit and the sacredness of his gift. The creation of art was Beauford’s passion: it was a full cup and a heavy, yet wondrous cross he bore at all costs. He fulfilled his purpose. His spirit did not return vanquished to the eternal – it accomplished what it was sent here to do.

Beauford left it to the world to ponder the “what if” of his mental state. The world was not meant to be this hard – he knew it even if those around him failed to recognize that fact. In a chilling way, it seems that he left long before his physical body breathed its last breath. What remained, still physically warm but drained of spiritual vitality, reminds us of how strong the will of a body remains long after the fight has ended.

When I read about Beauford, I am reminded of the lives of the multitude of persons who have passed into history without a whisper. Anytime I look on the dark face of a man or woman, hardened and scarred by the raging world around them, left mumbling, begging with their backs against a dirty wall sitting on a bustling, uncaring city sidewalk, I see Beauford. It was from a similar position that he painted the wonderful works we now laud. Who he was and what he saw are one and the same – they create a complete picture. It is amazing that he graced us with the world we hope for on canvas and in doing so created a way to escape, however momentarily, the madness knocking at our door.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Beauford and Emery: The Delaney Brothers at Notre Dame Cathedral

In Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, David A. Leeming writes that "Beauford always had a religious streak. He loved visiting the great cathedrals - Chartres and Notre Dame especially - not only for aesthetic purposes but because he envied the order and constancy he saw them as representing."

Beauford received a visit from his brother Emery, sister-in-law Gertrude, and niece Imogene in August 1955. On the first Sunday of their visit, Beauford and Emery attended mass at Notre Dame Cathedral. Emery also found the church appealing and described his experience as "heart-thrilling" in a letter to Joe Delaney (Beauford and Emery's brother).

Anyone seeing the cathedral cannot fail to be impressed by it. Here I share several photos that will give you an idea of why this church has inspired so many.

Notre Dame Viewed from the Left Bank
© Discover Paris!

Rear of Notre Dame Cathedral
Creative Commons Attribution: Kiwiboy121

Organ at Notre Dame Cathedral
Creative Commons Attribution: Eric Chan

Pietà
Nicolas Coustou
1712-28 Marble
© Discover Paris!

Rose from Garden behind Notre Dame Cathedral
Creative Commons Attribution: Charlesblack


View of the city from Notre Dame Cathedral
© Discover Paris!

For more stunning and unusual photos of the cathedral, click here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Plaque for Beauford

For almost a year, I have been mulling over the possibility of having a plaque dedicated to Beauford affixed to the façade of a building in Paris. There are already three plaques in Paris that honor African Americans - one for Richard Wright (6th arrondissement), one for Louis Armstrong* (9th arrondissement), and one for Carole Denise Fredericks (18th arrondissement). I think it would be fitting for Beauford's plaque to be hung in the 14th arrondissement - in Montparnasse - since this is the area of Paris that he called home for most of his years in France.

Louis Armstrong plaque
© Discover Paris!
*Beauford knew and sketched Armstrong during Beauford's "New York Years."

Inspired by the recent inauguration of the Fredericks plaque, I asked Carole's sister, Connie Fredericks-Malone, how she went about obtaining the various permissions required to have Carole's plaque installed. As I expected, she told me that the path was long and tortuous and that much time and patience was required. But surprisingly, the number of steps required is small.

Mairie of the 14th Arrondissement
© Discover Paris!

In late July, on behalf of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, I took the first steps down the road to making Beauford's plaque a reality. I visited the mairie (town hall) of the 14th arrondissement and asked for the name of the person I needed to contact to submit my request. I was given a form to complete and a document showing the name and photo of the official who will address my inquiry. I completed the form and mailed it in.

Given that it is August and almost all self-respecting Parisians have vacated the city, I do not expect to hear anything from this official until the rentrée - the return from summer vacation. I will publish updates on the Les Amis blog as things progress.

Wish us luck!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Beauford and Dizzy Gillespie

Beauford counted Dizzy Gillespie among his friends. He was excited about seeing Gillespie perform at a "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concert at the Alhambra in June 1958. Artists Ray Brown, Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins, Max Bennett, Herb Elis, Sonny Stitt, Roy Eldridge, Gus Johnson, Lou Levy, Pete Johnson, and Joe Turner were all part of the show.

Five of these artists can be seen playing together in the video below. The song is Gillespie's "Blues after Dark," recorded in 1958. Click on the image to watch!


Gillespie played in Paris frequently during Beauford's Paris years and regaled audiences at famous theaters such as the Olympia and the Salle Pleyel.