Category Archives: Beauford Delaney

Amazing Grace, (cont.)

A little over mid-way through this book I stopped reading it, not wanting to carry the burden of sadness caused my imaging the details of what it must have been like for Delaney struggling with the sexuality, the poverty, the self survival tactics, the living conditions, poor healthcare, etc.  I kinda felt like the character May, in the Secret Life of Bees, who grieved the pain of others.  With just a few chapters left to read, I picked it back up this past week (way overdue from the library) and finished it.   His story expanded my heart and it was somewhat painful…grieving him but also his life is such an iconic symbol for the struggle of being human today.  Should I be thankful that the struggle continues or burdened that we have not surpassed the injustices that plagued Delaney so many decades ago?

But he had his art..a compelling passion for him and we all should accept the blessing of finding something as compelling in our own lives as he had.  Many of his paintings were stolen and still yet to be found, but he was prolific and painted as if creating was his only requirement for subsistence.

It was only after learning that 30 years after his death, a proper tombstone was placed on his gravesite in Paris, France, that I found the strength to complete this biography.  Biographies are so rare for African American artists still and there is only hope in the future that scholarship develops and flourishes enough to interject more of our lives and art onto the world’s view.

Here is a blog dedicated to preserving his memory:

Les Amis de Beauford Delaney

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Filed under African American, Beauford Delaney, Painters

Amazing Grace-A Life of Beauford Delaney, by David Leeming

Oxford University Press, New York, 1998, hardcover, 221 pages.

I started reading this last night.  I checked it out from the public library after stumbling over it while looking for another book.   To my knowing there are just so few biographies of African/American Artists.  The author has also written a biography of James Baldwin and at the time of publication was a Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Conneticut. 

The book opens with the author sitting with two elderly nieces in the Delaney home in Knoxville, Tennessee.  One of them, Imogene, is playing Amazing Grace on the piano as they sing along as if conjuring the spirit of Mr. Delaney.  Amazing Grace was his favorite song. 

Having befriended James Baldwin, the author was introduced to Beauford Delaney, whom Baldwin referred to as his “spiritual father”.  Leeming recognizes that his personal contact with Delaney was limited but having meet him, the time spent impacted him greatly, along with the personal stories that Baldwin and others relayed which kept him alive after he had passed on. 

I didn’t get very far before dozing off to sleep, but having discovered that Amazing Grace was his favorite song and that he faced serious mental health issues, and he life ended while in an aslyum in Paris, I’m wondering what his art meant to him and how he worked.

Read Chapter 1 online.

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Filed under African American, Beauford Delaney, Biography, Library book, Painters