BEAUFORD DELANEY, “Portrait of James Baldwin,” 1944
FORTY YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH, Beauford Delaney’s hometown museum plans a major exhibition dedicated to his work. Since 2014, the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) has been amassing a collection works by the artist. On Feb. 1, the museum announced the purchase of 12 paintings, drawings, and works on paper by Delaney (1901-1979), adding to its significant holdings of more than 40 works on paper it had already acquired.
Ranging from portraiture to abstraction, KMA says it now has the largest public collection of works by the artist. A selection of the newly acquired works will be on view in the museum’s collection galleries this spring and a survey featuring all of the Delaney works is scheduled for fall 2019.
“Beauford Delaney’s legacy has long been recognized internationally, but he is less well-known here at home. We hope this acquisition helps to change that,” said KMA Curator Stephen Wicks, in a statement.
“Beauford Delaney’s legacy has long been recognized internationally, but he is less well-known here at home. We hope this acquisition helps to change that.” — KMA Curator Stephen Wicks
Born in Knoxville, Tenn., Delaney lived in Boston and New York before deciding to move to Paris in 1953. There he became close with James Baldwin, the subject of many of his portraits. “Settling in the Left Bank neighborhood of Montparnasse, an artists’ enclave, Delaney, like Baldwin, relished a sense of freedom as a gay black man that he did not have in the United States,” the New York Times recently noted about his years as an expatriate.
In Paris, Delaney charted a new direction in his work, focusing on abstraction. While he never achieved commercial success there, stateside The Studio Museum in Harlem presented a major retrospective of his work in 1978. A year later, suffering from mental illness, Delaney died destitute.
BEAUFORD DELANEY (Knoxville 1901-1979 Paris), “Moving Sunlight,” 1965 (oil on canvas, 25 3/4 x 21 1/2 inches). | All images: © Estate of Beauford Delaney, by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator
THE KNOXVILLE MUSEUM OF ART has joined with a number of local organizations participating in the “The Delaney Project,” an ongoing effort paying tribute to Delaney and his brother, fellow artist Joseph Delaney. The goal is to raise awareness about their legacy through cultural programs.
Last year, KMA presented “Gathering Light: Works by Beauford Delaney From the KMA Collection.” The exhibition featured paintings and drawings purchased from the artist’s estate between 2014 and 2016—nearly all of them being shown publicly for the first time.
Assembling a representative collection of Delaney’s work has been a community effort. Nearly 70 individuals, families, and organizations contributed the funds required for the latest acquisition.
“This purchase represents the highest and best expression of the museum’s commitment to the visual culture of our region,” said David Butler, executive director of KMA. “A broad spectrum of the community responded generously and with alacrity and enthusiasm to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the KMA a vital resource for the study, preservation, and promotion of Beauford Delaney’s work.” CT
Twenty years ago, David Leeming authored “Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney,” a biography of the artist, whom he knew. “Beauford Delaney: The Color Yellow” and “Beauford Delaney: From New York To Paris” explore the expanse of his oeuvre. Meanwhile, “Beauford Delaney: A Retrospective” documents the exhibition mounted by the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1978.
BEAUFORD DELANEY (Knoxville 1901-1979 Paris), “Self Portrait in a Paris Bath House,” 1971 (oil on canvas, 21 3/4 x 18 inches). | All images: © Estate of Beauford Delaney, by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator
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