Beauford Delaney (1901-1979)
Oil on canvas
51 ¼ x 38 3/8 in.
Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Gift of Halley K. Harrisburg, Class of 1990,
and Michael Rosenfeld
Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Beauford Delaney began studying art at a young age. In 1929, he moved to New York to participate in the cultural and artistic movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. At around this time Delaney’s paintings began to become more abstract, bursting with swirling lines and colors. In 1950, he left America to study art in Europe, where he would live for the rest of his life.
Delaney’s untitled Abstract Expressionist painting from 1960 is made on a large vertical canvas, its background chartreuse, white brushstrokes laid on top, a composition with no focal point. With abstraction, many African American artists found a mode of expression devoid of national or racial characteristics. In contrast to many of the works in this exhibition whose overt narratives record African American history, culture, and experience, Delaney’s abstract painting, as well as Sam Gilliam’s Enter Junipers, falls into the category of African American art solely because of the ethnicity of the artist.
Although the abstract paintings of Delaney and Gilliam may not have an obvious correlation to the African American experience, they are not untouched by the context of race, for both artists have had to deal with criticism for not portraying black subject matter. Despite the outcry, Delaney and Gilliam have forgone the inclination to include their culture in their art; their work transcends race with imagery that speaks to all people.
For further reading:
Kenkeleba House. The Search for Freedom: African American Abstract Painting, 1945-1975. New York: Kenkeleba House, 1991. Print.
Patton, Sharon. African American Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.
Perry, Regenia. Free Within Ourselves: African-American Artists in the Collection of the National Museum of American Art. Washington, D.C.: Pomegranate, 1992. Print.
Powell, Richard J. Black Art & Culture in the 20th Century. London: Thames & Hudson, 1997. Print.
|Previous Artist||Next Artist|