Beauford Delaney


Portrait of James Baldwin, 1945

Sorry, this item was part of a temporary exhibition or collection and is no longer available.
Artist: Beauford Delaney
Title: Portrait Of James Baldwin, 1945
Item No: 480079

About the Artwork

After growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, and attending art school in Boston, Beauford Delaney arrived in New York in 1929 in time for the rich stimulation of the Harlem Renaissance. He soon became a popular and respected figure among uptown artists and musicians, Greenwich Village bohemians, and the circle of artists centered around the midtown gallery of Alfred Stieglitz. Both his cityscapes and portraits of this period reflect his joy in this dynamic milieu as well as the bold innovations he brought to traditional genres of oil painting.

This portrait of James Baldwin was made when he and Delaney had only recently met, and the aspiring writer was just twenty-one years old. The intensity of the image recalls the portraits of Vincent van Gogh, whom Delaney revered. The piercing eyes, the strongly defined nose and lips, and the trunklike neck give Baldwin the unforgettable presence of an icon, as does the close-up viewpoint of the composition. The daringly juxtaposed passages of raw color radiate with the energy of the mind and heart of this young man, the future author of such novels as Go Tell It on the Mountain (1952) and Giovanni’s Room (1956).

Baldwin, who later wrote eloquently about Delaney’s paintings, would call the artist his “principal witness.” The term could be understood literally: over the course of the next thirty years, Delaney portrayed Baldwin in at least ten drawings and paintings. In the 1950s they both joined the growing circle of African American expatriates in Paris, where they remained lifelong friends. Delaney’s move to France explains in part the belated development of his reputation in the United States. In the company of the Museum’s portraits by artists such as Thomas Eakins, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Mary Cassatt, and Alice Neel, Portrait of James Baldwin powerfully affirms Delaney’s distinguished contribution to American modernism. Ann Tempkin, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary (2002), p. 109.

Related Images

About Our Products


This Art on Demand Store is your exclusive source for reproductions authorized and available for purchase directly from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. All items that are offered are produced using gallery quality materials and the color is managed in a manner that produces a reproduction as true to the original as technology will allow.


Many of the works offered through this store are exclusive and not available anywhere else. In addition, new works are continually added to the offering so make sure to come back and see the new releases.


You have found the work that speaks to you. Now what? Using our innovative custom framing tool you can preview exactly what your finished and framed art will look like. We offer many different moulding styles so there is sure to be a match for any type of decor.

Member Discounts

As always, members will receive their discount for all transactions processed through our Art on Demand Store. Simply enter your member id during the checkout process and your discount will be applied.