Friday, January 19, 2024

Beauford Delaney

Beauford Delaney (1901 –1979) was an American modernist painter. He is remembered for his work with the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as his later works in abstract expressionism.

Delaney was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1901. He studied art in Boston in his twenties and moved to New York in 1929, at the beginning of the Great Depression. In 1953, financial support from friends and patrons allowed him to visit Europe. Paris was meant to be the first stop on a longer itinerary, but he was so enchanted by the city that he remained there until his death, in 1979. 

For African American visual artists such as Herb Gentry, Bob Blackburn, Ed Clark, and Bob Thompson, and for the writers Baldwin, Chester Himes, Richard Wright, and others, France served as a refuge as they sought to ease the bite of domestic racism after the end of World War II. Indeed, while Delaney had not intended to settle permanently in Europe, he quickly realized he had found there a more hospitable climate in which to pursue his craft. Asked about his experience as an expatriate he replied,

“Expatriate? It appears to me that in order to be an expatriate one has to be, in some manner, driven from one’s fatherland, from one’s native land. When I left the United States during the 1950s no such condition was left behind. One must belong before one may then not belong. I belong here in Paris, I am able to realize myself here. I am no expatriate.”

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