Beauford Delaney

Joseph Delaney's older brother Beauford Delaney was a celebrated artist who was part of the Harlem Renaissance during the 1930's and 40's. Beauford moved to Paris in 1953 where he developed a distinct style of abstract impressionism, and became a mentor and friend to expatriate writers James Baldwin and Henry Miller.

The two brothers were quite different in nature and personality. While Beauford was refined, loved opera and classical music, Joseph was more earthy and loved jazz, street parades, and the hobo lifestyle.

Beauford's artwork became increasingly abstract and non-representational over the years, while Joseph's work evolved from realism to expressionism. In later years, the brothers grew apart, and Beauford died tragically in a Paris insane asylum in 1979.

A Tale of Two Brothers, by Jack Neely
Beauford Delaney
Beauford Delaney
Photo Courtesy of Hardy Liston

Beauford Delaney, My Brother

by Joseph Delaney
Beauford Delaney: A Retrospective, 1978

I was asked to give some comments about Beauford.

First and last, Beauford is an artist - one of the most sensitive and talented of all artists of all times. To qualify that broad statement would explore all of the qualities which make for the enigma which genius is ... whatever that is. Some creativity trained and inspired by life, living also with a personality void of definition, this unusual person was spotted early in his life. Scholars of all grades in school as well as teachers and professional people of high rank gave Beauford time and understanding.

Those early years which Beauford and I enjoyed together I am sure shaped the direction of our lives as artists. We were constantly doing something with our hands - modeling with the very red Tennessee clay, also copying pictures. One distinct difference in Beauford and myself was his multi-talents. Beauford could always strum on a ukelele and sing like mad and could mimic with the best. Beauford and I were complete opposites: me an introvert and Beauford the extrovert. Beauford went on to cultivate a taste for the opera and other great classics in music and literature.

He was never happier than the day in 1969 when I visited Paris. He took me to the French Opera which is truly great but I will settle for the Moulin Rouge any time.

On Sunday afternoon, January 29, 1978, I close my remarks about Beauford. Sunday was a day our parents set aside for worship, our father being a Methodist preacher in Tennessee and Virginia. All day Sunday and through the week we were trained to participate in church work. Wednesday evening was prayer meeting night.

This memory of our early life is to pay tribute to our parents who did their best bringing us up in the right way.

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Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace:
A Life of Beauford Delaney

by David Leeming