Beauford Delaney was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1901. As a child, he showed great promise as an artist and was mentored by Lloyd Branson, the premier professional artist in Knoxville at that time. Despite Branson’s white southern upbringing, he taught Beauford, who was African-American, a great deal. He even organized Beauford’s continued pursuit of formal art education in Boston.
Beauford studied at three art institutions in Boston, while working to support himself. He lived there from 1923-1929. He moved to New York City around the time of the Great Depression. He made the acquaintance of many U.S. artists who are now famous and eventually became a local celebrity in Greenwich Village. He also met and became the mentor of James Baldwin, who would become one of the most famous American writers of the 20th century.
From New York, Beauford moved to Paris. He arrived in 1953 and spent the last 26 years of his life here. His experiments with Abstract Expressionism in New York blossomed in Paris and he created some of the finest works of his career in the three studios he inhabited in Paris and the suburb of Clamart. Though he is best known for his abstract works, he also created portraits and other figurative works throughout his career.
Beauford suffered from mental illness and spent the last four years of his life as a patient at Sainte-Anne’s Hospital in Paris’ 14tharrondissement.
Beauford died in 1979 and is buried at Thiais Cemetery, outside Paris.