The Life, Art, and Times of Joseph Delaney, 1904Ð1991

  • Author(s): Moffatt, Frederick C.
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2009-12-15
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Hardcover - Cloth: Price $44.95 | Buy Now

“This book is an important contribution to the study of African American art and of American art in the twentieth century. It makes use of previously unexamined papers, interviews, and works of art and does so with originality and skill.”—David Leeming, author of Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney

This book is the first in-depth treatment of the life and work of the prolific African American painter Joseph Delaney, a gifted artist whose impressive achievements on canvas were somewhat overshadowed during his long career by those of his older brother Beauford. Frederick C. Moffatt deftly interweaves biography, art history, and critical analysis in his study of this neglected African American artist.

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of a Methodist preacher, Delaney renounced his family and moved to New York. Here he studied with Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League and thereafter devoted a career to figure drawing, portraiture, and to humorous interpretations of city life.

Joseph Delaney’s impact on the New York art scene was notable. Though he didn’t arrive until a decade after the flowering of the Harlem Renaissance, he kept pace with a leading echelon of African American painters and graphic artists over a fifty-year period. This group included such veteran practitioners as Palmer Hayden, Ellis Wilson, Lois Mailou Jones, and, until his 1953 departure for Paris, Beauford Delaney. Late in his life, Joseph returned to his childhood roots, accepting a visiting artist’s appointment at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Vividly drawn, judiciously researched, and copiously illustrated with both color and black-and-white reproductions, Moffatt’s critical biography draws liberally on his subject’s own diaries, essays, and poetry, as well as on numerous other sources, to offer an illuminating narrative that firmly establishes Joseph Delaney’s importance within the history of twentieth-century American art.

Frederick C. Moffatt is emeritus professor of art at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is the author of Arthur Wesley Dow, 1857–1922, and Errant Bronzes: George Grey Barnard’s Statue of Abraham Lincoln. His articles have appeared in Winterthur Portfolio, New England Quarterly, and Archives of American Art Journal.