Fallen Through The Cracks

Fallen Through The Cracks – Black Artists in History: Beauford Delaney

#FallenThroughTheCracks – Clifford Ricardo Joseph was born on June 23, 1922, in Panama City, Panama. He was an influential figure in both the art world and the field of art therapy and was also a notable activist.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Black Artists in History: Beauford Delaney

Fallen Through The Cracks – Beauford Delaney

Beauford Delaney

#FallenThroughTheCracks –  Beauford Delaney was born on December 30, 1901, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Delaney’s artistic path began when, as a teenager. Alongside his younger brother Joseph, he started crafting his sign designs. Delaney’s thirst for artistic knowledge led him to Boston, where he pursued formal art education. He studied at institutions like the Massachusetts Normal School, the South Boston School of Art, and the Copley Society, acquiring a strong foundation in classical technique.

In Boston, Delaney not only honed his artistic skills but also engaged with significant figures in African-American activism and culture. With this valuable knowledge, he moved to New York in 1929, coinciding with the Harlem Renaissance—a time of cultural vitality in the black community. His art began to reflect the vibrant urban life of Harlem, capturing its essence through colorful and engaging canvases. Members of this disenfranchised community became the subjects of many of Delaney’s greatest New York period paintings.

Beauford Delaney, Dark Rapture, 1941, © Estate of Beauford Delaney.
Beauford Delaney, Auto Portrait Rapture, 1965, © Estate of Beauford Delaney.
Beauford Delaney, Auto Portrait, 1965, © Estate of Beauford Delaney.

While Delaney integrated African American influences, such as jazz, into his art, he wasn’t inclined to participate in the socio-political debates or “Negro art” discussions of the time. Nevertheless, he took pride in black achievement and actively exhibited his work in black artists’ exhibitions. In 1953, at the age of 52, Delaney made a significant move to Paris, where many African-American artists and writers sought greater creative freedom. This shift marked a transformation in his style, transitioning from figurative compositions of New York life to abstract expressionism, emphasizing color and light.

His work has been showcased in prestigious institutions such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, solidifying his legacy as a remarkable artist. 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.

(Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and other sources. All Images are the property of the copyright owners. This clip is for educational purposes.)