• Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email
Black History Month: KMA Exhibit Salutes Delaney's Pioneering Work 

Curator Stephen Wicks from the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) discusses the significance of Beauford Delaney's art.

Delaney self-portrait, 1965 Knoxville native Beauford Delaney is revered internationally for his work as a 20th century artist. He is best known for his modernist style of painting, which often featured scenes of New York streets and jazz clubs and well-known African-American figures.

He has often been referred to as one of the most important African-American artists of the mid-20th century.

Yet despite his immense artistic contributions and recognition of his work in Paris, Delaney is often underappreciated in his hometown.

Delaney was born here on Dec. 30, 1901. He and his brother Joseph began jobs as sign painters when they were teenagers.

Their talent as painters gained the attention of Knoxville’s most well-known and first professional full-time artist, Lloyd Branson, who became Delaney’s mentor. Under Branson’s guidance, Delaney left Knoxville for Boston to study at the Massachusetts Normal School, the South Boston School of Art, and the Copley Society.

In 1929, Delaney landed in New York, where he befriended other prominent artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Stuart Davis, Henry Miller and writer James Baldwin. Baldwin, who formed a special relationship with Delaney that lasted 38 years, encouraged Delaney to go to Paris, where he remained until his death in 1979.

James Baldwin and Delaney in Paris, circa 1960

The Knoxville Museum of Art is currently featuring an exhibit, "Beauford Delaney and James Baldwin: Through the Unusual Door." The free-admission exhibit will run through May 10, 2020, and features more than 50 paintings, works on paper, unpublished material and papers rarely seen that are owned by the Delaney estate.

The Knoxville museum holds the world’s largest public collection of Delaney’s work, organized by museum curator Stephen Wicks, who says Delaney is “widely considered to be one of America’s great, modern artists of the 20th century."

- Communications intern Kelsey McDonald

Delaney portrait of James Baldwin, 1941 Delaney's "Scattered Light," 1964

Posted by evreeland On 21 February, 2020 at 4:08 PM