About This Artwork

Beauford Delaney
American, 1901–1979

Self-Portrait, 1944

Oil on canvas
68.6 x 57.2 cm (27 x 22 1/2 in.)

Restricted gift of Alexander C. and Tillie S. Speyer Foundation; Samuel A. Marx Endowment, 1991.27

In this vividly colored self-portrait, Beauford Delaney represented his likeness with a vibrant yet haunting intensity.The son of a Tennessee preacher, Delaney studied art in Boston before settling in 1929 in New York, where he became a familiar fixture in the downtown art scene, befriending such Abstract Expressionist artists as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. Using bold, thick strokes of paint to render his features, Delaney projected a penetrating, uncompromising view of himself, suggesting an intensive scrutiny of his psyche as well as his appearance. The visionary power of this self-portrait shares many qualities with the expressionistic work of Pollock from this time.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Newark Museum, Against the Odds: African-American Artists and the Harmon Foundation, Jan. 13-Apr. 15, 1990, cat. 25; traveled to Charleston, Gibbes Art Gallery, May 7-July 9, 1990, Chicago Public Library, Cultural Center, July 28-Sept. 29, 1990.

Art Institute of Chicago, In Their Own Right: Images of African Americans, Sept. 27, 1997-Jan. 11, 1998.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Collecting: African American Art in the Art of the Art Institute of Chicago, Feb. 15-Mar. 18, 2003.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Beauford Delaney: From New York to Paris, Nov. 20, 2004-Feb. 20, 2005, cat. 5.

Publication History

Esther E. Grisham, Art Education 46, 4 (July 1993), pp. 25-28, 37-40.

Andrea D. Barnwell, “Self-Portrait,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 24, 2 (1992), pp. 200-02 (ill.).

Andrea D. Barnwell and Kirsten P. Buick, “A Portfolio of Works by African American Artists Continuing the Dialogue: A Work in Progress,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 24, 2 (1999), p. 185.

Philippe Briet, ed., Tributary (Edgewise Press, 1999).

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 149.

Ownership History

Atelier Dore, San Francisco; Salander-O’Reilly Galleries, New York City, by 1991; sold to The Art Institute of Chicago, 1991.

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