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Beauford Delaney 1901–1979
Georgia O'Keeffe's reverent pastel portrait honors Beauford Delaney's magnanimity, perseverance, and courage in the face of difficulty. The painter faced many challenges, impeded throughout his career by sexual, cultural, and racial stereotyping and later beset by inner voices and other psychological problems. Born in Tennessee, Delaney had moved to Boston to further his art studies before settling in New York City. Through Alfred Stieglitz he was also introduced to modernist art and its practitioners, including O'Keeffe.

Portraiture was rare in O'Keeffe's work. But she greatly admired Delaney and found him an attractive subject to draw, describing him as "dark—clean—really beautiful." She rendered her subject in much the same manner as her New Mexico still-lifes of bones, rocks, or flowers. Isolating Delaney's profile against a neutral background, she depicts the head objectively, using minute tonal gradations. With her photographic eye, she focuses, like a close-up, on the details of the face, thereby abstracting forms and manipulating scale.

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1986)
Pastel on paper, 1943
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation
© 1938 The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation
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