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!

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Untitled, 1959: Finding the Light

By Hanna Gressler

If you compare a painting by Beauford from the 1920s with a painting by him from the 1950s and onward, there is a chance you may think the paintings come from two different artists. The older he became, and the more art he produced, the more Beauford moved toward abstraction.

In the 1930s, Beauford found himself heavily influenced by the French artist Henri Matisse, whose use of saturated colors and distorted spaces inspired Beauford’s own artwork. Paris was the perfect city to allow Beauford to indulge his passion in modern art as he frequented galleries and studios in La Rive Gauche and looked at Greco-Roman sculpture at the Musée du Louvre. In this culturally artistic environment, Beauford’s painting style matured and flourished as he developed a new sense of color and space.

We can see this flourish of color and space in Untitled, from 1959. Dark shades of green, blue, and purple outline this painting. The colors then become lighter as they move across the canvas - a clear white and bright yellow - creating an inward movement toward the center of the painting.

(1959) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

As a viewer, your gaze is immediately drawn to this center of white and yellow, whose light seems to be swallowing the darkness of the colors around the painting, suggesting the image of a black hole. But instead of a black hole infused with darkness, this hole is infused with light, and we must enter into it in order to discover what we become on the other side.

This inward movement of the bright colors also suggests a sense of home, the image of a womb in which the light of life exists. The viewer feels a desire to return to this home, where she can be lulled by the painting’s “gentle blue and darling yellow.”

The brush strokes of the painting, Untitled, are also particular in their loose and musical style. Instead of serving to fill up bodies of space with the color, the brush strokes form spiral-like bodies of their own. Across the canvas, the white colored strokes develop a lyrical aspect as they form shapes akin to letters, as if they are trying to speak to the viewer.

These white bodies of color hold a mystery the viewer must solve in order to see past them and become engulfed by the bright yellow in the background. The sun-pierced yellow holds a spiritual power as it evokes the spirit Helios, providing a sense of holiness. In fact, each color contains a symbolic meaning.

It is Beauford’s combination of colors in this painting that creates a personal narrative and informs the imagination of the viewer. The inward movement created by the bright white and yellow colors pull the viewer toward a place she can call home, a place of light and rebirth, resulting in a sense of regeneration and redemption.

Throughout his entire life, Beauford was forced to face racism and homophobia, two potent forms of social rejection. In his more abstract paintings, Beauford paints his escape from this rejection, flying toward colors of light with the same movement as his brush strokes. The energy in his paintings comes from the visible and invisible interactions that happen between the many shapes and colors. These interactions evoke a universal spirituality that allows the viewer to look inside herself and discover that she is her own source of light and power.

Hanna Gressler is a rising senior at the American University of Paris. She is serving as a 2017 summer intern for the Wells International Foundation.

Saturday, August 5, 2017


By Hanna Gressler

My inspiration for this poem comes from the painting Nativité (Nativity Scene) by Beauford Delaney and the bright yellow color that illuminates not only the painting, but also the scene that is taking place. Through my poem, I wanted to explore the transfer between the darkness of the womb and the all-encompassing light of life that is portrayed in this painting.

Nativity Scene
(1961) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

The night you were born, there was a light
that shined so bright, it blinded
the stars.

Released from the pressure around your body,
you moved toward its brightness,
only capable of finding it
through the dark.

Suddenly, the universe
revealed itself –
a vision of those you love –
and your arms and legs began to move
in their newfound freedom.

Goats danced in the soft green grass.
Wind chimes sang distant melodies.
I held you beneath the stars where,
in this moment of eternity,
we bathed in the transcendent light of life.

Hanna Gressler is a rising senior at the American University of Paris. She is serving as a 2017 summer intern for the Wells International Foundation.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Beauford-inspired Mural in Knoxville

I recently published two posts about elementary school kids in Knoxville being inspired by Beauford’s life and art and creating self-portraits and abstract works that were displayed at the Knoxville Museum of Art.

I have now become aware of another Beauford-inspired work of art created by Knoxville students that is on permanent display. It is a mural on an external wall at Beaumont Academy, a Fine Arts, Museum, and Honors magnet school located north and west of downtown Knoxville, and it was painted by students from Knoxville’s Austin-East Magnet High School for Performing Arts.

Mural at Beaumont Academy
Screenshot from WBIR.com video

Learn the story behind the mural by watching the video below.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I Can't Go Home...

Beauford on the deck of the SS Liberté*

I can't go home because I never really left ... I sailed to France sixteen years ago, but I've never left America. The body goes somewhere, that's all ...

The above quote was Beauford's response to a reporter who asked him in 1969 if, as a Negro, he felt he should go home to America where the action is.

In fact, part of Beauford's heart, mind, and soul always remained in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. From the moment he left Knoxville to move to Boston in 1923 until his commitment to Sainte-Anne's Hospital in Paris in 1975, Beauford consistently, if not frequently, reached back to Knoxville for emotional and spiritual sustenance.

Delaney Family Home at 815 East Vine Street, Knoxville*
Image from KnoxNews.com Archive

Beauford and his brother Joseph returned to Knoxville in 1933. Both were living in New York City at the time. They were much admired and their accomplishments were touted by those in their community.

In 1938, he wrote "disjointed letters" to his mother Delia during a time of financial crisis and she reacted by writing to Joseph to tell him to take care of Beauford.

In 1941, he visited Knoxville briefly at around Christmas time and in 1950, he took the train from New York to Knoxville to see his mother.

Portrait of Delia Delaney
(1964) Oil on canvas
Photo courtesy of Case Antiques
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

His last visit as a resident of the U.S. was in August 1953, shortly before he shut down his New York studio and moved to Paris. Biographer David Leeming says that during this visit, Beauford "asked many questions about family history and went through family papers, as if this would be a last chance to do so."

Beauford's last visit to Knoxville took place in December 1969. By this time, he was so mentally fragile that he relied on others to make his travel arrangements. He somehow made it to Knoxville despite many mishaps along the way and was taken to the Delaney home by a taxi driver who knew his family. He celebrated his birthday there, went to church with his family, and painted. He left for Paris on January 14, 1970 and would never see the United States again.

Beauford's relatives visited him in Paris as well. Joseph came most frequently, but his brother Emery, his sister-in-law Gertrude, and his niece Imogene came in 1964. Joseph and Beauford's niece, Ogust Mae, attended Beauford's funeral.

*The creator of this photo is unknown to Les Amis de Beauford Delaney. We consider its publication in this blog post to be "fair use" according to U.S. copyright law (used for a non-profit educational purpose; no significant effect on the potential market for the work).

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Café Scene, 1966: The Beautiful in the Mundane

By Hanna Gressler

The comparison between Beauford’s earlier paintings, including his early portraits, and the works of art from later in his life depicts an evolution toward the abstract, in which conventional rules are abandoned and the human spirit is discovered through a new use of shapes and colors.    ~Hanna Gressler

I was first introduced to the artist Beauford Delaney by Dr. Monique Wells. As she told me about his life in Paris and I scanned images of his art, I was immediately taken by Beauford’s complex use of color to express meaning and a sense of wholeness in his paintings.

Flipping through images of his artwork, the painting Café Scene (1966) caught my eye due to the bright yellow that almost shines a light in your face.

When Dr. Wells asked me to write a post about Beauford for the Les Amis blog, I felt inspired to investigate what provoked my strong reaction in order to discover the painting’s deeper meaning. So, follow me through this step by step spiritual experience of what it is like to be faced with a painting by Beauford Delaney.

Café Scene - hung in the Grande Salle at the 2016
Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition in Paris
Photo by Sophia Pagan Photography

Café Scene
(1966) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

At first glance, your eyes are drawn to Café Scene’s predominant yellow hues. Suddenly, you are engulfed by a yellow light that emits a sense of warmth. Then you begin to gradually discern the lines of bodies gathered closely together, but not touching one another. The vague outline of these bodies evokes the simplicity of their character and their humanity. Although the people do not have distinct faces, the warmth of the yellow makes you feel welcomed in their environment, as if you are one of them.

Beauford gives us a glimpse into the lives of marginal people, whose beauty is expressed through the yellow light rather than their physical bodies. In doing so, he reveals a universal humanity that connects us to the world around us.

Next, you notice the fireplace, your point of perspective naturally drawn to the left-hand corner where the walls of the café come together. Like you, the people in the café are also drawn to the fireplace, their source of heat. The fireplace stretches all the way to the top of the ceiling, creating a sense of dimension in the image that allows you to be placed into the world of the café, among its other shapes and bodies.

Café Scene - detail (fireplace)
(1966) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Looking more closely, the floor of the café extends all the way toward the right-hand-side of the painting, as if inviting you to step in and join the other people. Here, the sources of heat are not only the yellow light and the fireplace, but also the sense of welcome and familiarity that they evoke. A mundane scene is portrayed as a beautiful environment. Beauford is letting us know that light and beauty can be found even in the dirtiest of corners and the darkest of alleyways.

Café Scene - detail (floor)
(1966) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

This painting is not unlike others by Beauford. In his art, there are no precise lines - only an abstract vision like that of a memory lying deep in the unconscious. In Café Scene, he accesses the darkness of the world and chooses to reflect the inner light of his subjects, rather than their physical attributes. The painting evokes a spiritual level of meaning that engages our humanity and calls for a certain transcendence.

As I continue to look at this painting, its yellow light glowing, I gain a new perspective of the world and myself. Beauford’s art allows you to see the world through his eyes, where terror exists alongside beauty, and where we must engage in a lifelong struggle to balance the two.

Hanna Gressler is a rising senior at the American University of Paris. She is serving as a 2017 summer intern for the Wells International Foundation.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Beautiful Haunt of Beauford Delaney

by Silver Wainhouse

Silver Wainhouse is a woman of many talents and accomplishments. She is the archivist of the Wainhouse Collection at Syracuse University; the director at Womanistics; and an actress, writer, speaker, astrologist, and coach. Wainhouse fell in love with Beauford's story and is now writing a play about his life. As part of her preparation for this project, she and I visited Beauford's gravesite at Thiais Cemetery. She has graciously submitted the article below for publication on the Les Amis blog.

Beauford Delaney’s body, about to be exhumed from an unmarked grave to be moved to a collective grave, became indignant. So, it did what all great spirits do, it attached itself to someone to keep it alive. And that person was Dr. Monique Y. Wells. Monique, who was moved to satisfy a growing curiosity about African-American gravesites in Paris, was rumbled by Beauford’s baritone voice.

Beauford's unmarked grave - 2009
© Discover Paris!

Beauford, after all, was a notable painter whose list of friends and acquaintances included the likes of James Baldwin, Jackson Pollock, W. C. Handy, Ethel Waters, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Richard Wright and Duke Ellington. He painted Marian Anderson as she sang. Of course Monique Y. Wells would be infected by his spirit.

During a lunch I caught the Beauford virus as Monique told me about Beauford’s life and of her project to reintroduce Beauford Delaney to the world. “You must read Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney by David Leeming,” she told me. “It is my Beauford bible.”

David Leeming does a remarkable job of immersing you in Beauford’s world. I will not see the colors of yellow and red as I did before. They have become Beauford’s colors when I see them, separate and merging. After reading Leeming’s book, I wanted to see his paintings. I wanted to visit his grave.

Monique and I coordinated a time for me to arrive, keeping in mind weather and the fact that I would have to take the northern bound to Paris train from Nîmes.

I felt as if I were on a holy pilgrimage and felt mounting tears. We stopped to buy yellow flowers to honor him. He so loved yellow. There was a sadness because we knew that he attempted to keep demons at bay his entire life, a contest he lost.

Silver Wainhouse at Beauford's Gravesite
© Discover Paris!

Thiais is a sprawling cemetery of 225 acres located 6.5 miles south of Paris. The sections range in appearance from desolate to noble. Beauford is in Section 86; now with a marked grave and hopefully with flowers from others who have discovered his beauty.

Thiais Cemetery - Division 86
© Discover Paris!

Jake Cigainero was piqued and a story about Beauford Delaney graced the New York Times. Just like in the ole days. It’s because Beauford Delaney has a way of getting into you. He really does.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Beauford in "Psychology and Art" - Part 3

Continued from Part 2.

As part of my interview with Dr. Robert Brubaker, Head of the Psychology department at Eastern Kentucky University, about Beauford and the Psychology of Art course that he conducts in Paris, I asked Dr. Brubaker how Beauford's childhood experiences influenced his creative achievements - positively or negatively.

Delaney Family Portrait, 1909
Standing: from left to right - Samuel Emery, John Samuel (father), and Delia (mother)
Seated: from left to right - Joseph, Ogust Mae, Beauford, Naomi
Photo from du Closel archive
Image © Discover Paris!

He responded as follows:
There is research to suggest that there are some childhood and family factors that are more common among especially creative people than among the less creative. One that seems relevant for Beauford is having had creative or aesthetically inclined parents.

David Leeming tells us that Delia Delaney was a creative person – a seamstress, a quilt-maker, and a singer.

Portrait of Delia Delaney
Beauford Delaney
(1933) Oil on canvas
Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, TN

Beauford’s younger brother Joseph was an artist, his older brother Samuel Emery sang, as did Beauford and his other siblings. The Delaney family seemed to appreciate and value artistic expression.

Image of a portrait of Joseph Delaney
by Beauford Delaney
in Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney
by David A. Leeming

Having had a mentor in childhood also seems important. Beauford received early encouragement from his employer at the sign painting shop. He was introduced to the artist Lloyd Branson, who recognized Beauford’s talent and ability, provided art lessons, shared with him his appreciation of light, encouraged him to pursue his art studies in Boston, and facilitated his move to that city.

Portrait of Lloyd Branson
ca. 1911
Image in public domain

His mother’s strong belief in Christian values and morality seemed to help Beauford deal with psychological distress caused by the voices that tormented him. Of course those same values, held by his father as well, may also have contributed to the guilt and conflict he felt over his sexuality for the remainder of his life. To the extent that these feelings motivated his art (painting helped him manage the voices he heard), they contributed to his artistic development.

Leeming also notes that Delia “…never revealed her suffering to others” and that she instilled that same quality in Beauford. It's possible that this encouraged him to express otherwise unacknowledged psychological distress in a less direct way, through his painting.

To read Part 1 of this article, click HERE.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Beauford in "Psychology and Art" - Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

Dr. Robert Brubaker and the students attending the Kentucky Institute of International Studies course on Psychology and Art are living in a hostel across the street from Sainte-Anne's Hospital, where Beauford spent the last four years of his life. They will visit the hospital to learn about art therapy and view artwork created by hospital patients.

Insignia - Sainte-Anne's Hospital
© Discover Paris!

Dr. Brubaker feels very fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Sainte-Anne’s Hospital as part of the Psychology of Art class since 2007. The specific agenda varies from year to year, but he and the students typically meet with Dr. Anne-Marie Dubois, Head of the Centre d’Etude de l’Expression clinic and an internationally recognized expert on art therapy. Dr. Dubois talks about the work of her clinic, its history, and about the art collection of the Museum of Art History and History (formerly called the Musée Singer-Polignac) of Sainte-Anne Hospital. She also shares some pieces from the collection - these are works created by persons with mental illness and donated to the museum (not those who are patients in the art therapy clinics).

Entrance to the Centre d’Etude de l’Expression
© Discover Paris!

The Centre d'Etude de l'Expression was formed in 1952 and has operated as a French non-profit organization since 1973. It offers therapeutic expression workshops that incorporate art (and other means of expression, such as writing) into the therapeutic process. Work produced by the workshop participants, while part of the Centre’s collection, is not shared with the public.

The museum is only open to the public during planned exhibitions, the Journées du Patrimoine, and the Nuit Européene des Musées. The collection is stored in an archives located on the hospital grounds. Catalogs from previous exhibits and reproductions (postcards) are available for purchase at the museum. Dr. Dubois has authored a four-volume series of books on the collection (De l’art des fous a l’oeuvre d’art) illustrated with numerous stunning images of many of the works.

This year, Brubaker plans to ask if there are any works by Beauford in the hospital's collection.

I asked whether Dr. Brubaker thinks Beauford's "pathology" is reflected in his work. He responded:

Well, that’s another of those controversial issues. I will preface my response with the disclaimer that I am neither a Beauford Delaney scholar nor an art historian or critic. Based on my reading of what empirical research there is on the topic, I’m certainly not convinced it is possible to look at a piece of art and determine whether the artist had a mental illness or not (except, perhaps, in cases of severe cognitive impairment). I’m also very dubious about the validity of interpreting specific elements of a painting or drawing as symbolic of internal psychological conflicts or turmoil. The data from studies of the validity of projective drawing techniques have convincingly debunked that assertion.

I suspect that such interpretations reveal more about the person doing the interpreting than it does about the artist. Paintings reflect what the artist chooses to tell us. It’s one thing if Delaney tells us, as noted in the catalog of The Color Yellow exhibit, that he believed yellow is “… the color of light, healing, and redemption.” It’s quite another if we observe his use of yellow and draw that conclusion on our own.

The Color Yellow - catalog cover
© Discover Paris!
The entirety of the artist is reflected in his/her work. I don’t think there’s any justification for according “pathology”any special status.

Brubaker does not believe there is a way to know that Beauford struggled with psychological disturbances without prior knowledge of his history. He says that if he knew nothing about Beauford Delaney and noted Beauford's extensive use of yellow in his work, he might suggest that it reflects Beauford's bright, sunny, warm-hearted personality ... or he could just as easily argue that it was a form of masking or compensating for or dealing with depression and unhappiness. He says there are no characteristics of “art of the mentally ill.”

I asked Dr. Brubaker whether he thinks there is a "common significance" for the use of the color "yellow" based on his studies of various artists. While he said that he doesn't feel qualified to offer an opinion on this question, he mentioned the "obvious parallel" between Beauford's use of the color and Van Gogh's "seeming affinity for yellow (the sunflower paintings, the yellow house in Arles), particularly at a time when Van Gogh was more hopeful about his future." He now believes he needs to explore this issue more carefully:

Given the central role the color "yellow" has played in discussions of Delaney’s paintings as well is in those of Van Gogh, particularly during the period he (Van Gogh) spent in Arles, a more careful consideration of the psychological aspects of color is warranted.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Beauford in "Psychology and Art" - Part 1

This course will explore selected topics in the psychology of art within the context of 19th and 20th century painting (primarily painters working in Paris). Artists of particular interest include van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne, Utrillo, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Monet, Delaney, and Modigliani.

The above statements are found at the beginning of the course description for the Kentucky Institute for International Studies* course entitled "Psy 299 Topics: Psychology of Art" being held in Paris this summer.

Dr. Robert Brubaker, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University, is leading this study abroad course. This year, he is including Beauford in the syllabus for the first time. He contacted Les Amis to ask about resources and materials that he could use to enhance his students' experience.

Professor Robert Brubaker, Eastern Kentucky University
© Discover Paris!

I suggested the "Beauford Delaney's Montparnasse" commemorative walking tour to Dr. Brubaker and arranged to meet him to learn more about the course. He graciously agreed to an interview about his interest in Beauford and his reasons for including Beauford in "Psychology and Art."

During the course, Dr. Brubaker and his students discuss a number of questions/issues/beliefs about the relationship between an artist’s psychological functioning and his/her work. To bring these issues to life and to provide some context, Brubaker likes to introduce the students to several artists who were known to have struggled with psychological disorders. He looks for artists with personal stories that will engage students and help them recognize the complexity of the relationship between mental illness and creativity.

Knowing something about the artist as a whole person and not someone defined by illness enriches our understanding of his/her work. It helps begin to dispel stereotypes about people with mental illness and about artists.

Because the course is taught in Paris, Brubaker selects artists who have some connection to the city. He says that being able to show students where the artists lived and worked, their favorite hangouts, their grave sites, scenes they painted, etc., further humanizes them. Two artists he always incorporates into the class are Vincent Van Gogh and Maurice Utrillo. Others, e.g., Modigliani, Toulouse Lautrec, Gauguin, Picasso, are included to illustrate certain points.

Until recently, Brubaker had only been aware of Beauford in the most general sense from studying art history. He knew Beauford was an American artist and was familiar with a few of his works (notably Can Fire in the Park). He found that Beauford’s life story, his struggles with mental illness, his circle of friends, the aesthetic appeal of his art, his connection with Paris, and his origins in Tennessee (not far from Kentucky) made him an excellent addition to the course.

Over the past few months, Dr. Brubaker read David A. Leeming’s biography, Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, and the catalogs from two Delaney exhibits, Beauford Delaney: From NY to Paris and Beauford Delaney: The Color Yellow. He has read most of the posts on the Les Amis blog and a number of miscellaneous articles discovered online. He is adding Amazing Grace and the Les Amis blog to the bibliography for the course.

The blog led Brubaker to visit Knoxville to see the Gathering Light exhibition currently on display at the Knoxville Museum of Art prior to bringing his students to Paris. I asked him how that visit informed what he is having the students explore regarding Beauford's life and art. He responded:

The students and I explore the nature of creativity and the creative process – Do creative persons share particular personality characteristics, is creativity an inherent trait (some people have it, some don’t) or is it a skill to be learned? do creative ideas spring forth fully formed (inspired) or are they the product of experimentation and shaping and hard work?

What I found particularly interesting in the exhibition from a psychological perspective were the sketchbooks that are on display. I’m fascinated by artists’ sketchbooks because I think they often give us some insight into their thought processes. The quick sketches and notes suggest how the artist plays with ideas prior to putting brush to canvas or paper. For the same reason, the series of self-portrait studies were particularly interesting to me. I will share those observations during our class discussions.

I mentioned to Dr. Brubaker that "Psychology and Art" is a perfect example of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) education and asked him how much time he has his students spend looking at art during the course. He said they spend a great deal of time looking at images of art that accompany class presentations/lectures and they go on excursions to art museums to see works in person.

In addition, Brubaker uses images of paintings to illustrate how our brains process visual art – the neurological, perceptual, and cognitive processes that allow us to see, understand, and respond to a visual stimulus as a piece of art. When he mentioned that he had not been able to identify any works by Beauford that are on display in Paris, I organized a visit to the Galerie Intemporel so he and his students could see Beauford's art in person.

The image below shows Dr. Brubaker (far left) the students, and gallery owner Laurence Choko (far right) standing in front of Beauford's Portrait of Vassili Pikoula.

Professor Brubaker and KIIS "Psychology and Art" students at
Galerie Intemporel
© Discover Paris!

Portrait of Vasilli Pikoula
(1970) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

KIIS students at Galerie Intemporel
© Discover Paris!

To successfully complete the Psychology and Art course, students must write a final examination consisting of eight questions that Brubaker provides in advance. These questions reflect important questions studied by psychologists and others interested in art and artists. Brubaker expects students to describe various theories and points of view held by the experts and to present and evaluate the evidence supporting those positions. As an example, he cites the great interest in the question of whether the incidence of psychopathology is greater among artists and other creative people than it is in the general populations. There are published studies supporting this proposition and studies that disagree.

Brubaker says that because debates surrounding these questions often focus on criticisms of the methodology employed in the scientific studies used to explore them, there is no one "correct" answer for any of the exam questions.

At the end of our interview, Brubaker emphasized that he has only begun to study Beauford's life and work. "As we consider Delaney in the context of the psychology of art, I will be learning along with my students," he said.

Professor Brubaker admires Delaney paintings at Galerie Intemporel
© Discover Paris!

*KIIS is a consortium of colleges and universities in Kentucky and some surrounding states, including Eastern Kentucky University.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

"Bringing Delaney Home" at the Knoxville Museum of Art

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a pilot project inspired by Beauford's art and life called Bringing Beauford Delaney Home. It was conducted at West View Elementary School in Knoxville, TN.

The Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) is currently displaying the artwork created by the students who participated in that project as part of its Celebrate School Art Programs.

Hanging the students' art
Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

Information panel
Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

The information panel for the exhibition reads as follows (text reproduced with the permission of the museum):

The summer exhibition features West View Elementary students in the grade K-5. This art exhibition at KMA highlights the fundamental importance of the arts in the school curricula, an essential component to the healthy development and complete education of our young people.

Through a partnership with The Great Schools Partnership Community Schools Program, Knoxville Chapter of the Links, Inc., and the KMA, students at West View Elementary were able to spend six weeks learning about Beauford Delaney, one of Knoxville's greatest abstract painters of the 20th century.

The students studied the use of bold bright colors, and the color "yellow" one of Delaney's favorite colors. The students self-portraits are inspired by Beauford's yellow portraits.

Student self-portraits
Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

The students also studied Beauford's abstract paintings from Paris, which inspired them to create abstract collages pieced together from many other abstract paintings they created.

Student abstracts
Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

The large mixed-media piece is a collaborative painting made by all 26 students who participated in the Bringing Delaney Home project.

Collaborative student abstract
Image courtesy of the Knoxville Museum of Art

The students began the project knowing little or nothing about Beauford Delaney, but are now big fans of his artworks and are willing to share their new knowledge. On the learning expedition to the KMA, the students were excited to finally see the original work created by Delaney in person.

Bringing Delaney Home will hang in KMA's Education Gallery until June 30, 2017.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Still Lifes by Beauford

The Tate Gallery defines still life painting as follows:

One of the principal genres (subject types) of Western art – essentially, the subject matter of a still life painting or sculpture is anything that does not move or is dead.

Beauford rarely painted stiil lifes. There are two that I find particularly remarkable:

Still Life with Pears
(1946) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Still Life with Eggplant & Fruit
(1949) Pastel on paper
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Both of these works were painted prior to Beauford's relocation to Paris. Still Life with Pears is bold and crisp, while Still Life with Eggplant & Fruit is soft and sensual.

Both are revelations of Beauford's brilliant use of color.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Beauford's Art Inspires Knoxville Elementary School Students

Information card from West View Elementary School Arts Night
Image courtesy of The Links Incorporated, Knoxville Chapter

"Bringing Beauford Delaney Home" is an educational program that is part of Gathering Light: The Beauford Delaney Project, the multifaceted community project that has taken Beauford's hometown of Knoxville by storm. It is designed to teach the children of Knoxville and Knox County about Beauford's life and work and inspire them to create their own art based on what they learn about him.

The Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA), the Knoxville chapter of The Links, Incorporated, and West View Elementary School worked together to implement the pilot program, which took place from February 2 through March 31 at the school and the museum.

Twenty-six (26) children, grades K-5, participated in the program. Members of the Knoxville, TN chapter of The Links, Incorporated volunteered to assist West View Elementary School educators at student workshops.

The program began on February 2 with a parent-children workshop, where Chief Curator Stephen Wicks of KMA presented an overview of Beauford's work and asked questions of the audience to gauge interest and comprehension. The children created woven abstract mats for the event.

Links volunteer observes as kids create art
Image courtesy of Link Sylvia Peters

Working diligently
Image courtesy of Link Sylvia Peters

On February 16, students participated in a workshop during which they studied the elements of art such as line, shading, shape, and learned how these are used to create landscapes. They also learned about abstract art, with Beauford's work serving as an example.

KMA hosted a Family Fun Day on February 16, where entry to the museum was free. The museum offered door prizes and organized art activities, face painting, and a magic show for attendees.

Additional student art workshops were held at West View Elementary on February 23 and March 2.

On March 9, students were given a KMA tour to see Beauford's work hanging in the "Changing Fortunes, Changing Scenes" section of the permanent exhibition called Higher Ground in the museum's gallery.

Children at the museum
Image courtesy of Link Sylvia Peters

Learning about Beauford's abstract Scattered Light
Image courtesy of Link Sylvia Peters

Learning about Beauford's Portrait of Delia Delaney
Image courtesy of Link Sylvia Peters

"Bringing Beauford Delaney Home" culminated on the evening of March 30, when West View Elementary hosted Arts Night. The school proudly displayed the works that the children created throughout the eight-week program.

Arts Night display wall
Image courtesy of The Links Incorporated, Knoxville Chapter

Arts Night - abstract work
Image courtesy of The Links Incorporated, Knoxville Chapter

Arts Night - abstract and figurative works
Image courtesy of The Links Incorporated, Knoxville Chapter

These works will be hung in the Children's Gallery at KMA in June 2017.

Due to the success of the pilot program, the Beauford Delaney Project Council is determined to take "Bringing Beauford Delaney Home" into additional schools as early as September 2017 and to expand the program to students in grades 6-12.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Beauford in Jules B. Farber's James Baldwin - Escape from America, Exile in Provence

Jules B. Farber's book, James Baldwin - Escape from America, Exile in Provence, is a story woven from over seventy interviews with friends, associates, and lovers of James Baldwin about the seventeen years (1970-1987) that Baldwin lived in the French provincial town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. It is MUST READ for those wanting to better understand Baldwin's thoughts, fears, actions, and works written during these last years of his life.

James Baldwin - Escape from America, Exile in Provence
Book cover

Farber begins his account by explaining how Baldwin moved into a homestead owned by an elderly spinster named Jeanne Faure. He describes how Baldwin first occupied "a basement flat in the old stables, accessible through a small, narrow passage under the kitchen" and went on to "buy" rooms in the house to provide a place to stay for his personal entourage and his myriad visitors. Baldwin and Mademoiselle Faure developed a deep friendship over the years and it was commonly known that she wished the property to go to Baldwin upon her death. In 2007, the Baldwin family lost a 20-year legal battle over ownership of the property to Mlle Faure's housekeeper/caretaker, Mme Josette Bazzini.

Farber describes Baldwin's underground apartment (the same space used as a studio by Georges Braque) as having three of Beauford's paintings on the wall. He says that two of the paintings were portraits of Baldwin

Portrait of James Baldwin
(1971) Oil on canvas
Bequest of James Baldwin to Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Image courtesy of Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries
Note: Some question whether the person depicted in this portrait is indeed Baldwin.

and that the third was a portrait of Foster White, a former lover of Baldwin.

Beauford spent a great deal of time at this place, particularly when he was in need of physical and psychological care and healing. He would stay there for weeks at a time, surrounded by Baldwin, Bernard Hassell, and frequently, Baldwin's brother, David - all people who loved him and looked out for him.

From left to right: David Baldwin, James Baldwin, and Beauford
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Sketching and painting the scenery of the area were part of his "therapy."

Creative Commons License - Dynamosquito

Village (St. Paul de Vence)
(1972) Oil on canvas
Bequest of James Baldwin to Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Image courtesy of Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries

Sadly, the land and buildings are now greatly deteriorated. The extensions of the original house have been destroyed by the current owner, a developer who has the intent to construct luxury apartments there.

House and extension wing
Image courtesy of His Place in Provence

House with wing removed
Image courtesy of His Place in Provence

An organization called His Place in Provence is working to prevent the unfortunate transformation of this centuries-old, historical site. If successful, they will preserve a part of Beauford's history and legacy alongside those of Baldwin.

In Chapter 1, Farber includes details of an interview with Richard A. Long, a dear friend of Baldwin and Beauford, in which Long described bringing Beauford to Saint-Paul-de-Vence in 1973 (the year was actually 1972). Long indicated that the only other time he returned to the town was after Baldwin's death, when he inventoried the artworks that Baldwin had bequeathed to Clark Atlanta University. Among these works were several by Beauford.

A couple of brief mentions of Beauford in Chapters 1 and 5 indicate that he was also at Saint-Paul-de-Vence in 1974 and that he was not well at that time.

Pages 130-132 in Chapter 6 are devoted to anecdotes surrounding Beauford's placement in Sainte-Anne's Hospital in Paris and the depressing effect this had on Baldwin. Coupled with the public attack on Baldwin made in Le Canard Enchaîné, a satirical French newspaper, about his care of Beauford, Baldwin's concern for Beauford's deterioration detrimentally affected his work on the novel Just Above My Head.

Two B&W photos in the central section of the book reference Beauford. One is of Baldwin sitting in his underground office beneath Beauford's portrait of him.

James Baldwin in his house in Saint-Paul-de-Vence
Creative Commons Attribution
OT Saint Paul de Vence

The other is a Max Petrus photo of Baldwin and Beauford at Sainte-Anne's Hospital.

In Chapter 11 - "Black Music: Gospel, Blues, and all that Jazz," Farber credits Beauford with exposing Baldwin to secular black music in 1940. He quotes extensively from Baldwin's introduction to The Price of the Ticket, where Baldwin talks of "walking into music" when he visited Beauford's Greenwich Village apartment for the first time. This music would influence Baldwin's ability to write and the content of his writing for the rest of his life.