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Beauford Delaney

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

Artist 27 Beauford Delaney Expressionism Painting

Beauford Delaney was an African American modernist painter. He is remembered for his work with the Harlem Renaissance, as well as his later works in abstract expressionism in Paris.

He attended art school in Boston at the age of 23 and through letters of introduction from Knoxville, he also received what he referred to as a "crash course" in black activist politics and ideas.

His travelled on to New York City at the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Harlem was then the center of black cultural life in the United States.

But it was also the time of the Great Depression, and it was this that Beauford was confronted with on his arrival.

Delaney felt an immediate affinity with this "multitude of people of all races – spending every night of their lives in parks and cafes" surviving on next to nothing.

Members of this disenfranchised community became the subjects of many of Delaney's greatest New York period paintings. In New York his work focused on colourful, engaging canvasses that captured scenes of the urban landscape.

Delaney developed a lyrically expressive style that drew upon his love of musical rhythms and his improvisational use of color

Despite his success and being part of the New York communities he was furtive and rarely comfortable with his sexuality. He feared that many of his Harlem friends would be uncomfortable or repelled by his homosexuality.

The pressures of being "black and gay in a racist and homophobic society" would have been difficult enough, but Delaney's own Christian upbringing and "disapproval" of homosexuality added to this pressure.

So he remained isolated as an artist. While his subject matter addressed post–Great Depression poverty, homelessness, and black disenfranchisement, Delaney was ultimately more concerned with self-expression and self-discovery than social commentary

The focus today will be on his New York Paintings. His work makes me uncomfortable not through the topic but his painting style it makes me want to move. I believe this is my mind interacting to the brush strokes. His work carries movement and a sense of chaos which he captures well. How does his paintings make you feel?

Added bonus facts

He moved to Paris and his years in Paris led to a dramatic stylistic shift from the figurative compositions of New York life to abstract expressionist studies of color and light.

His abstraction positioned him as a forerunner of one of the most important ideological and stylistic developments in twentieth-century American art. Delaney's abstract work increasingly gained attention.

So look his later work up

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