Abstract painting

Cleveland Museum of Art acquires important abstract painting by Beauford Delaney, bolstering collection of works by African-American artists

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Beauford Delaney, a major but misunderstood American artist who chronicled the Harlem Renaissance with visionary intensity before moving to Paris in the 1950s to escape racism and homophobia, now has a place in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

The museum announced that a major abstract painting by Delaney, “Untitled,” 1958, has joined the collection in the latest round of acquisitions approved by the museum’s board on Monday. The painting is the latest in a series of significant acquisitions of works by African-American artists, including “Alabama,” a major work by Civil Rights-era abstractionist Norman Lewis.

Painted in luminous swirls of yellow accented by hints of pale blue, Delaney’s painting seems to glow, at least in a photograph, with hallucinatory intensity.

The museum described the canvas, which measures nearly five feet high and nearly four feet wide, as “one of Beauford Delaney’s finest and most exuberant creations.”

The museum’s acquisitions also included a late 15th-century triptych by the Altar Master of Krainburg, a painter from present-day Slovenia, which depicts the Lamentation of Christ with what the museum describes as a “topographically accurate” depiction of Jerusalem in the background.

Triptych with The Lamentation of Christ (center), Saint Barbara (left wing), Saint Catherine of Alexandria (right wing), The Annunciation (wings reversed), c. 1486–90. Master of the Krainburg Altar (Austrian, active c.1490-1520). Center: oil on poplar; Wings: oil and gold leaf on poplar panel; center: 45.7 x 33 cm (18 x 13 in.); wings: 51 x 15.9 cm (20 1/16 x 6 1/4 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund.Cleveland Museum of Art

The cityscape was modeled after a woodcut by artist Erhard Reuwich for the 1486 publication “Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam”, (“Pilgrimage to the Holy Land”) by author Bernhard von Breydenbach, who visited the Holy Land in 1483-1484.

Reprinted 13 times over the next 30 years, the book became the early Renaissance equivalent of a bestseller. The museum said that although it does not have a specific date for its new triptych, it believes the painting must have been made after 1486 because the artist was familiar with the illustration.

“Bamboo in the Wind”, a set of 10 ink-on-paper paintings made in 1934 by Korean artist Jin-woo Kim also joined the collection. The museum described the artist as one of Korea’s most famous painters of the early 20th century, and one who was “highly regarded for his extremely sharp renderings of bamboo, often compared to iron spears and knives. “.

The Cleveland Museum of Art announces new acquisitions

Bamboo in the Wind, 1934. Kim Jin-woo (Korean, 1883-1950). Folding screen with ten panels; ink on paper; each panel: 128.9 x 33 cm (50 3/4 x 13 in.); each framed panel: 194.3 x 47.6 cm (76 1/2 x 18 3/4 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund.Cleveland Museum of Art

The paintings can have a political dimension. “Deeply involved in many resistance efforts for Korean independence, the artist emphasized sharp edges through dynamic brushstrokes, suggesting that his bamboos were weapons to challenge the oppression of Japanese colonial rule. in Korea (1910-1945),” the museum said in its press release. .

Delaney, born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1901 to a Baptist minister, Samuel Delaney, and his wife, Delia Johnson Delaney, showed tremendous aptitude for drawing as a child.

An elderly white artist, Lloyd Branson, tutored him and encouraged him to study art in Boston, where Delaney moved when he was 16. After moving to New York in 1929, Delaney developed a style based on thickly painted surfaces and brilliant colors resembling those of early 20th-century French Fauve painters, including André Derain and Henri Matisse.

Delaney painted prominent black subjects, including WEB Dubois. He went on to portray Marian Anderson, Duke Ellington, Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong and James Baldwin.

Georgia O’Keeffe, an admirer of Delaney, painted her portrait. Other admirers included novelist Henry Miller and Baldwin, whom Delaney befriended in Paris. Throughout the 1950s in Paris, Delaney’s work evolved towards complete abstraction.

The museum said Delaney “was so passionate about the aesthetic and symbolic possibilities of yellow that it became his ‘signature’ hue; thereafter his yellow abstractions became his most desirable and sought-after works.’

For Delaney, “yellow connoted feelings of spiritual ecstasy and transcendence”…even when his personal circumstances were difficult, even bleak.”

Delaney has received widespread critical acclaim for her work. John Russell, the New York Times art critic, called him “an uninhibited (but never unintelligent) colorist”. Miller titled an essay about him, “The Amazing and Invariable Beauford Delaney”.

Other artists admired him. His obituary in the “Times” quoted Herbert Gentry, an American expatriate artist living in Paris, as saying that “Delaney’s forte was as a philosopher, a giver.” The article noted that Delaney was generous to others, giving most of a $5,000 scholarship to artists in need of a loan.

Although Delaney always did high quality work, was represented in a gallery, exhibited his work in numerous exhibitions, and received accolades, the museum said that “financial success eluded him”. The artist succumbed to mental illness and died in an asylum in Paris in 1979 at the age of 77.

Museum director and president William Griswold alluded to Delaney’s painting at a recent symposium, hinting that the museum would purchase a major work by an African-American artist.

Without naming Delaney, he said the work would be displayed in the museum’s east wing gallery which focused on abstract expressionism, previously dominated by white artists, until the Norman Lewis painting was purchased.