Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dr. William A. Dodd's Tribute to Beauford


Dr. William A. Dodd purchased Untitled (Grape motif) from Dolan/Maxwell Gallery in Philadelphia.

Dr. William A. Dodd and Untitled (Grape Motif) (1946)
© Estate of Beauford Delaney,
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Photo © Discover Paris!

I asked him to comment on his interest in Beauford's work and why he collects letters and other information about Beauford's life. He responded as follows:

I first learned about Beauford in the late 90s when I was visiting lots of New York galleries. Michael Rosenfeld's catalogs of African-American 20th century masterworks may have been my first introduction to Beauford's work.

What attracts me to his work is two-fold - the simplicity (through the outlining of his images) and his vibrant use of color in his Greene street and cityscape paintings. I also like his abstract paintings with their heavy textures and complex swirls of color.

I became intrigued with his life when I learned that he lived in Greenwich Village and in France. My mother, who lived in Harlem, told me about the bohemian life of the Village - the jazz, fashion, and art. I also developed an interest in French culture and studied French in high school and college.

Beauford lived the life I dreamed of. I read the Leeming bio and realized that his freedom came with a cost. So I began researching and collecting material about him to get a better understanding of the man.

Dodd's collection of Beauford Delaney memorabilia includes documents and photos from Beauford's 1947 show at the Pyramid Club in Philadelphia and a catalog of his one-man show at the Paul Facchetti Gallery in Paris in 1960.

Catalog of the 7th Annual
Pyramid Club Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture - Cover
© Discover Paris!

Beauford Delaney catalog
Galerie Paul Facchetti
© Discover Paris!

There are also several letters that Beauford wrote to a patron named Frank Scoville, which date from 1949 to 1954.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Beauford Delaney works in Philadelphia

In 2013, I wrote an article about two Beauford Delaney paintings being held by the Dolan/Maxwell gallery in Philadelphia. As I am in Philadelphia this week, I went by the gallery to see one of the works.

Untitled (Yellow series) is an oil on linen that Beauford painted in 1962.

Untitled (Yellow series)
(1962) Oil on linen
26 x 21 inches
Annotated in verso
© Estate of Beauford Delaney,
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Photo © Discover Paris!

It is rare for me to stand before one of Beauford's paintings and I view any opportunity to cast my eyes upon his work in person to be a privilege. While it is possible to get a good sense of the colors that he used by looking at online and print images, I feel that you can only truly appreciate the texture of his work by standing before it. I attempted to capture the texture of Untitled (Yellow series) in the sharply oblique view of the painting shown below.

Untitled (Yellow series) - oblique view
© Estate of Beauford Delaney,
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Photo © Discover Paris!

Ron Rumford, director of the gallery, removed the back panel from the painting to show me the annotation "in verso."

Untitled (Yellow series) - rear view
© Estate of Beauford Delaney,
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Photo © Discover Paris!


The second painting that I described in the 2013 article was sold to a Philadelphia dentist. On the spur of the moment, Ron phoned the buyer to ask if the painting were hung at his nearby office. Fortunately, it was and we set out on foot for an impromptu visit.

Dr. William A. Dodd and Untitled (Grape Motif) (1946)
© Estate of Beauford Delaney,
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Photo © Discover Paris!

William is a former gallery owner and an avid collector. He shared information about the 1947 show of Beauford's work mounted by the now defunct Pyramid Club of Philadelphia.

Look for details in next week's blog post!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Beauford and Countee Cullen

Beauford was strongly influenced by one of the leading figures of the Harlem Renaissance - Countee Cullen.

Countee Cullen
1941 Carl Van Vechten

Beauford was in his twenties when met Cullen. This was during his "Boston years." The two men were introduced by an affluent black couple, the Roscoe Conkling Bruces, who lived in Cambridge during the 1920s.

Cullen obtained his M. A. at Harvard and Beauford was aware of his writing from pieces that Cullen had published in Crisis and Opportunity magazines. Cullen spoke with Beauford about his desire to go to Paris*. He would make the transatlantic voyage in 1928 with funds from a Guggenheim grant.

According to Beauford's biographer, David A. Leeming:

Beauford was fascinated by Cullen, by his somewhat flamboyant style, and by the idea of Paris. The two men maintained a friendship during the 1930s and 1940s, and Cullen collected a few of Beauford's paintings. After ... his return from Paris, Cullen would become a schoolteacher. It is of coincidental interest that he taught beginning French to a junior high school boy who would become one of Beauford's closest friends-the young James Baldwin.

Beauford encountered Cullen again when he moved to New York City. Cullen encouraged him to read works by Harlem Renaissance writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Alain Locke, and Claude McKay. The two men would meet at "306," an address on West 141st Street where black artists and intellectuals gathered to discuss issues and voice concerns. Among those who frequented this address were writers Richard Wright, Claude McKay, and Langston Hughes, and artists Jacob Lawrence and Selma Burke.

Beauford and Cullen would never meet in Paris. Cullen died of hypertension and uremia in 1946 and Beauford would journey to Paris for the first time eight years later.

*Palmer Hayden, who visited Paris in 1932, would implant the idea of visiting France in Beauford's already receptive mind.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Live Ideas: Baldwin and Delaney

Professor Rachel Cohen of Sarah Lawrence College provided a wonderful tribute to Beauford for the Les Amis blog in anticipation of moderating a discussion about Beauford and James Baldwin that was scheduled for the New York Live Arts Festival in April 2014.

The video of this session is now on YouTube:

Live Ideas: Baldwin and Delaney

It is an hour and 28 minutes long.

Joining Cohen on stage at the Festival were David A. Leeming, biographer of Beauford and James Baldwin, and Diedra Harris-Kelley, co-director of the Romare Bearden Foundation.

Screenshot from Live Ideas: Baldwin and Delaney video
From left to right: Diedra Harris-Kelley, David A. Leeming, and Rachel Cohen

Below are several highlights of the session that I found to be of particular interest:

  • "Painterly" discussion of Beauford's work by Diedra Harris-Kelley: 14:00 minutes
  • David A. Leeming discusses Beauford's life in New York: 21:20 minutes
  • Rare footage of a round-table discussion with James Baldwin, Alvin Ailey, Albert Murray, and Romare Bearden about Paris: 35:50 minutes
  • Diedra Harris-Kelley describes one of Beauford's portraits of James Baldwin: 41:00 minutes
Portrait of James Baldwin
(1965) Oil on canvas
25.5 x 21.25 inches
Signed and dated lower left
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
  • Diedra Harris-Kelley describes the color "yellow" from a painter's point of view: 43:35 minutes
  • Diedra Harris-Kelley discusses Beauford's "back and forth" between figurative and abstract works: 47:30 minutes
  • David A. Leeming discusses the impetus behind Beauford's Rosa Parks series: 51:05 minutes
  • David A. Leeming reads the story of his first encounter with Beauford: 53:58 minutes
  • Diedra Harris-Kelley responds to a question about Beauford's relationship with the New York School of Modernism: 1:05:48 minutes
  • David A. Leeming tells a story about Dark Rapture: 1:10:20 minutes

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