Experience the Brilliant Art of Beauford Delaney in Paris

Experience the Brilliant Art of Beauford Delaney in Paris
A unique opportunity is being presented to those lucky enough to be in Paris this February to discover (or rediscover!) the life and works of modernist expressionist artist Beauford Delaney who participated for many years in the artistic circles of Greenwich Village and the Harlem Renaissance, but spent the last 26 years of his life in Paris, where he died in 1979 in a mental ward at St. Anne’s hospital and was buried in something not too different from a pauper’s grave. Beauford’s Work and Life Beauford is known for his extraordinary artistic gifts with both color and form – his stark reality based scenes and portraiture from his early days in New York, and both his abstract expressionist works and more primitive portraiture from his later years in Paris. His abstract works feature fluid splashes of color and bright depictions of Monet-like light. He painted portraits of many of his friends and acquaintances in the art and literary world – including Marian Anderson, Jean Genet, Pablo Picasso, his good friend Henry Miller and his “spiritual son” and possibly closest friend, James Baldwin – portraits that are, per his biographer David Leeming, “terrifyingly perceptive” (see Amazing Grace, A Life of Beauford Delaney, published in 1998).He even painted a portrait of a young Bobby Kennedy. Beauford was born in Knoxville Tennessee, his mother a former slave and his father a minister. He was befriended by and trained under a local artist, then studied art in Boston and, at the age of 28, moved to New York where he became part of the art scene and attended salons in Harlem with the likes of Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison, as part of the so called Harlem Renaissance. He also hung around in Greenwich Village where he displayed in local galleries and enjoyed poetry and the jazz scene and developed friendships with Henry Miller, James Baldwin and Georgia O’Keefe. He fought through the issues of his race and his sexual orientation, as did many in the early part of the last century, but he also had another more destructive cross to bear – inner demons that he could not shake. As David Leeming states in his biography, Beauford was embroiled in a “personal and life-threatening battle with the ‘voices’ within himself that all too often escaped his inner world and took form as tormentors” – a battle that caused him to descend often into alcoholism and at the end to die in a Paris mental ward – but a battle that he often won by, per Leeming, using “form and light to create works of art that would transcend individual subjects and speak for themselves.” The Exhibition and Related Events Over 40 of his paintings and other works will be on display at Reid Hall in Paris in this very special exhibit aptly entitled Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color sponsored by Wells International Foundation and Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, along with Columbia Global Centers/Reid Hall. The exhibit will run from February 3 through the end of the month. There will be a number of exciting events and experiences related to the exhibit, including a talk in the exhibit space about jazz and the Delaney works by spoken word artist Mike Ladd; a public screening – hosted by Columbia University – of a documentary about the African American experience in Paris; a round table discussion of Delaney’s work by U.S., Caribbean, and French art experts; an “Homage to Beauford Delaney” walking tour (which will include the two commemorative plaques placed in 2015 through the efforts of Monique Wells – one at Hotel Odessa on rue d’Odessa in the 14th arrondissement, where Beauford lived when he arrived in Paris in 1953, the other plaque at Hotel Le M where once stood the Mille Colonnes restaurant where Delaney frequently ate.). Some key dates: Wednesday, February 3 – opening reception; Thursday, February 18 – round table discussion: “Multiculturalism in today’s art world”; Sunday, February 21 – Celebration of Beauford’s Life in Paris You can sign up for updates about the show and the related events at the following site: http://lesamisdebeauforddelaney.blogspot.fr/p/reid-hall-exhibition.html Evite in English Evite in French James Baldwin said of the artist, his very special friend: “As for Beauford Delaney, it escapes the general notice that he has comprehended, more totally perhaps than anyone…the tremendous reality of the light which comes out of darkness. If we stand before a Delaney canvas, we are standing, my friends, in the light: and, if in this light, which is both loving and merciless, we are able to confront ourselves, we are liberated into the perception that darkness is not the absence of light, but the negation of it.” Yes, Beauford Delaney was an immensely talented artist, but one who is even today not very well known – despite an occasional retrospective exhibit and his works being part of collections at many…

Lead photo credit : Monique Wells with Delaney's work at the Centre Pompidou Paris/ photo: Discover Paris

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Michele is a corporate lawyer and writer who visits France often and is convinced she must have been French in an earlier life -probably hanging around with Ernest Hemingway during what she calls his "cute" stage, living on Cardinal Lemoine and writing on rue Descartes - which just happens to be be her usual stomping ground. From her first time in Paris and that first feeling of familiarity she has returned often as if it is her second home. Now the hotels are Airbnb apartments and she enjoys being a short-term local and shopping at the market, cooking her own meals. Sitting on her own Paris balcony , a wineglass or morning coffee in hand, she writes her journal, describing her walks around town as the proverbial flâneur and taking notes for the future’s stories and travel pieces.