The thick, impasto quality of Beauford Delaney’s Untitled (c. 1958) develops the vocabulary of his representational art of earlier decades. The artist’s move from New York City to Paris in 1953 precipitated a corresponding shift in his artistic practice, represented clearly in the swirling, abstract field of color in this painting. Textural brushstrokes in intense, saturated colors had framed his earlier portraits and group subjects. Here, figurative and representational content has been replaced by the suggested movement in the paint itself, which becomes the main language of the work. Released from their supporting role, the free brushstrokes move across the canvas, rejecting any fixed compositional rules.
Working in Paris allowed Delaney, like many African American artists, a critical distance from the New York art scene. Delaney’s work, which resisted categorization throughout his career, drew upon an idiosyncratic mix of influences. Untitled represents the intersection of American abstract expressionism and European tachisme, interpreted through Delaney’s own style and artistic lexicon. The rhythmic texture and lyrical movement of the paint owes much to the artist’s love of jazz and represents a unique contribution to mid-century abstraction.