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Portrait of James Baldwin
Portrait of James Baldwin, 1945
Beauford Delaney, American
Oil on canvas
22 x 18 inches (55.9 x 45.7 cm)
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Purchased with funds contributed by The Daniel W. Dietrich Foundation in memory of Joseph C. Bailey and with a grant from The Judith Rothschild Foundation, 1998
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Let's Look

  • Look closely and try to figure out who this person is. What adjectives would you use to describe his personality?
  • Which parts of the painting look flat? Three-dimensional? Point to some shadows, highlights, outlines, and parallel lines.
  • Name the different colors used to paint this face. Are these colors you see on real faces?

Let's Look Again

  • Why did Delaney choose to paint a full-face, close-up view of Baldwin?
  • Why did he use such bright colors, thick paint, and swirling brushstrokes?
  • Do you think this portrait is a realistic representation of Baldwin or an expression of the artist's feelings about him? Why?

Connect and Compare

  • Compare a black-and-white photograph of James Baldwin with the painted portrait by Beauford Delaney. Describe how Baldwin's personality is similar and different in the two pictures.
  • Beauford Delaney adored jazz and he went to jazz clubs whenever he could. He painted portraits of musicians and tried to express the essence of jazz, which he felt was a great African American achievement. Listen to several jazz recordings, then choose one that you think expresses the mood of Delaney's portrait of James Baldwin.
  • Study this portrait and imagine what James Baldwin is thinking. Write an interior monologue from his point of view.

Related Art Project

Work in pairs to make full-face, close-up portraits of each other with oil pastels. Make sure the top of the head touches the top of the paper and the face fills most of the space. What colors best express the personality of the person you are drawing? Try layering and mixing colors. Consider including dark outlines, pastel highlights, and parallel lines.

For more information, please contact The Division of Education by phone at (215) 684-7580, by fax at (215) 236-4063, or by e-mail at .

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