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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Beauford in "Psychology and Art" - Part 3


Continued from Part 2.

As part of my interview with Dr. Robert Brubaker, Head of the Psychology department at Eastern Kentucky University, about Beauford and the Psychology of Art course that he conducts in Paris, I asked Dr. Brubaker how Beauford's childhood experiences influenced his creative achievements - positively or negatively.

Delaney Family Portrait, 1909
Standing: from left to right - Samuel Emery, John Samuel (father), and Delia (mother)
Seated: from left to right - Joseph, Ogust Mae, Beauford, Naomi
Photo from du Closel archive
Image © Discover Paris!

He responded as follows:
There is research to suggest that there are some childhood and family factors that are more common among especially creative people than among the less creative. One that seems relevant for Beauford is having had creative or aesthetically inclined parents.

David Leeming tells us that Delia Delaney was a creative person – a seamstress, a quilt-maker, and a singer.

Portrait of Delia Delaney
Beauford Delaney
(1933) Oil on canvas
Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, TN

Beauford’s younger brother Joseph was an artist, his older brother Samuel Emery sang, as did Beauford and his other siblings. The Delaney family seemed to appreciate and value artistic expression.

Image of a portrait of Joseph Delaney
by Beauford Delaney
in Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney
by David A. Leeming

Having had a mentor in childhood also seems important. Beauford received early encouragement from his employer at the sign painting shop. He was introduced to the artist Lloyd Branson, who recognized Beauford’s talent and ability, provided art lessons, shared with him his appreciation of light, encouraged him to pursue his art studies in Boston, and facilitated his move to that city.

Portrait of Lloyd Branson
ca. 1911
Image in public domain

His mother’s strong belief in Christian values and morality seemed to help Beauford deal with psychological distress caused by the voices that tormented him. Of course those same values, held by his father as well, may also have contributed to the guilt and conflict he felt over his sexuality for the remainder of his life. To the extent that these feelings motivated his art (painting helped him manage the voices he heard), they contributed to his artistic development.

Leeming also notes that Delia “…never revealed her suffering to others” and that she instilled that same quality in Beauford. It's possible that this encouraged him to express otherwise unacknowledged psychological distress in a less direct way, through his painting.

To read Part 1 of this article, click HERE.

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