Beauford Delaney (December 30, 1901– March 26, 1979)
Beauford Delaney (December 30, 1901 – March 26, 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 following his move to Paris in the 1950s. Beauford's younger brother, Joseph, was also a noted painter. In Greenwich Village, where his studio was, Delaney became part of a gay bohemian circle of mainly white friends; but he was furtive and rarely comfortable with his sexuality. When he traveled to Harlem to visit his African-American friends and colleagues, Delaney made efforts to ensure that they knew little of his other social life in Greenwich Village. He feared that many of his Harlem friends would be uncomfortable or repelled by his homosexuality. In 1953, at the age of 52, and just as the centre of the art world was shifting to New York, Delaney left New York for Paris. By 1961, heavy drinking had begun to impair Delaney's often fragile mental and physical health. Periods of lucidity were interrupted by days and sometimes weeks of madness. This pattern would continue for the remainder of his life. In the early 1970s it became clear that he could no longer cope with daily life. In the autumn of 1973 his friend, Charley Boggs, wrote to James Baldwin, "Our blessed Beauford is rapidly losing mental control." His friends tried to care for him but, in 1975, he was hospitalized and then committed to St Anne's Hospital for the Insane. Beauford Delaney died in Paris, at St Anne's, on March 26, 1979. In 1985 James Baldwin described the impact of Delaney on his life, saying he was "the first living proof, for me, that a black man could be an artist. In a warmer time, a less blasphemous place, he would have been recognised as my Master and I as his Pupil. He became, for me, an example of courage and integrity, humility and passion. An absolute integrity: I saw him shaken many times and I lived to see him broken but I never saw him bow." He further wrote, "Perhaps I should not say, flatly, what I believe – that he is a great painter – among the very greatest; but I do know that great art can only be created out of love, and that no greater lover has ever held a brush." In 2009, freelance writer Monique Y. Wells was researching an article on African-American gravesites in Paris when she learned that Delaney was buried in an unmarked grave at the Parisian Cemetery of Thiais. She discovered that Delaney's remains would be exhumed before the end of the year if the "concession" (the equivalent of a lease) on his grave was not renewed. Friends of Delaney gathered the sum required, and Wells paid the fee to the cemetery to preserve Delaney's resting place.
Timeline & Places:
• December 30, 1901: born.
• March 26, 1979: died. Buried at Cimetière de Thiais Thiais, Departement du Val-de-Marne, Île-de-France, France