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.!

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

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."

Saint-Paul-de-Vence
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.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Gathering Light: Knoxville Museum of Art's Beauford Delaney Exhibition Now Open


Over 250 people turned out for the opening of Gathering Light - the exhibition of the Knoxville Museum of Art's permanent collection of Beauford Delaney works last week!

Knoxville Museum of Art
© Wells International Foundation

Entrance to exhibition gallery
© Knoxville Museum of Art

Inside the exhibition gallery
© Wells International Foundation

On Wednesday, May 3, roughly 90 persons attended the invitation-only, VIP opening. Chief Curator Stephen Wicks presented his concept for the exhibition, which brilliantly links photos and sketches displayed on a centrally located table with selected paintings and works on paper displayed on the walls of the gallery.

Photos and sketchbooks on central table
© Wells International Foundation

Artwork on wall of gallery
© Wells International Foundation

I followed by presenting the story of how I came to learn about Beauford's life as an African-American expatriate in Paris and why I became passionate about his personal and artistic legacy.

The general vernissage, or opening, was held on Thursday, May 4. Once again, the museum filled with visitors who were curious and eager to see the exhibition.

Opening night attendees
© Wells International Foundation

A child observes an abstract oil painting
© Knoxville Museum of Art

Contemplating Dante Pavone as Christ
© Knoxville Museum of Art

Photo ops abounded!

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Monique Y. Wells
© Wells International Foundation

From left to right: Steve and Ann Bailey, KMA patrons
and sponsors of Gathering Light; Richard Jolly, artist
© Knoxville Museum of Art

From left to right: Wokie Wicks, KMA Chief Curator Stephen Wicks;
Douglas McCarty of MHM Architects and Interior Designers,
sponsor of Gathering Light
© Knoxville Museum of Art

On the evening of May 5, I joined several members of KMA's millennial group, Art House, to celebrate the opening. We gathered for dinner at Bistro on the Tracks - an acclaimed Knoxville dining establishment.

Dinner with Art House
© Knoxville Museum of Art

Art House's mission statement is the following:

Connecting a new generation to the Knoxville Museum of Art by providing exclusive opportunities to learn through art.

Throughout our exquisite meal, conversation was lively. Between exchanges of personal information and anecdotes, I shared stories from Beauford's biography and the Les Amis blog that centered on food.

Gathering Light will be shown at the Knoxville Museum of Art through July 23, 2017.