One of Beauford Delaney’s finest and most exuberant achievements, “Untitled” is a visually engaging, generously scaled composition featuring highly gestural and textured applications of paint. Its striking palette radiates with buoyant yellow interlaced throughout with prismatic blue and red, with intermittent complementary accents in green and orange. The predominant yellow brushwork is deployed in lively undulating arcs across the surface of the canvas, creating a cohesive allover arrangement. The Beauford Delaney masterpiece significantly enhances the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Abstract Expressionist holdings.
In style, the painting marks an important contribution to abstract expressionism, the mid-twentieth-century movement devoted to communicating psychological and emotional impulses through line, shape, color, and texture, most often without making reference to recognizable objects.
Delaney was so passionate about the aesthetic and symbolic possibilities of yellow that it became his “signature” hue; subsequently, his yellow abstractions have become his most desirable and sought-after works. For the artist, yellow connoted feelings of spiritual ecstasy and transcendence, and through its enthusiastic embrace he created painted equivalents to happiness and joy even when his personal circumstances were challenging, if not bleak.
Born in Jim Crow–era Knoxville, Tennessee, Delaney sought artistic training in Boston and settled in New York to launch his career. In 1953, he moved to Paris, hoping to mitigate the effects of the racist and homophobic strictures he encountered in America. There he joined a cadre of international artists, including a growing number of Black luminaries, among them James Baldwin, for whom he became both mentor and muse. Although Delaney created consistent, high-quality work, had gallery representation, exhibited on numerous occasions, and earned critical praise, financial success eluded him. At the time of his death, he was destitute.
Due to his race and sexual orientation, and despite his achievements, Delaney did not attain the level of fame necessary to guarantee him a place in the early histories of the Abstract Expressionist movement. However, interest in his work has been steadily increasing during the past quarter century.
About the Cleveland Museum of Art
The Cleveland Museum of Art is renowned for the quality and breadth of its collection, which includes more than 63,000 artworks and spans 6,000 years of achievement in the arts. The museum is a significant international forum for exhibitions, scholarship and performing arts and is a leader in digital innovations. One of the top comprehensive art museums in the nation, recognized for its award-winning Open Access program and free of charge to all, the Cleveland Museum of Art is located in the University Circle neighborhood.
The museum is supported in part by residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture and made possible in part by the Ohio Arts Council (OAC), which receives support from the State of Ohio and the National Endowment for the Arts. The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally and economically.
For more information about the museum and its holdings, programs and events, call 888-CMA-0033 or visit cma.org.Abstract ExpressionismBeauford DelaneyBlack artist