Beauford Delaney

  • Born 1901 in Knoxville, TN, USA
  • Died 1979 in Paris, France
A key figure of the Harlem Renaissance, Beauford Delaney apprenticed with painter Lloyd Branson (1853–1925) in Knoxville before beginning his art studies in Boston in 1924. He moved to New York in 1929. He participated in the “306” group of African-American painters led by Charles Alston (1907–1977) in Harlem, but as a gay artist, he also maintained a studio and bohemian circle on Greene Street in Greenwich Village. He depicted the neighborhood in many paintings in the late 1940s. Delaney gained recognition for his portraits of prominent African-Americans, such as Duke Ellington. In 1930 some of these portraits were shown at the Whitney Museum Studio Galleries in New York. During his time in New York Delaney established lifelong friendships with the novelists Henry Miller (1891–1980) and James Baldwin (1924–1987). In 1953 he followed Baldwin to Paris, where he lived for the rest of his life. Delaney suffered mental illness in France but continued to work and exhibit. His art moved from representational pastel portraits and street scenes to completely abstract paintings of an Expressionist manner. Always using thickly applied paint and bright colors, Delaney’s painting style recalled the techniques of the French Fauves and Van Gogh. Shortly before his death, the Studio Museum in Harlem organized his first retrospective.

Artworks by Beauford Delaney in the exhibition