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Beauford Delaney's Untitled

What do you see? Swirling green lines. Patches of bright yellow. Red and blue paint dashed onto the canvas. And thick, white splotches that mix with all the colors.

Looking at this painting can overwhelm you. And the longer you look, the more the bold colors and spinning lines blur and blend. They fill the whole canvas, leaving your eyes nowhere to rest.

This painting, with its swirls of line and color, marks a big change in the artist’s career. A few months before Beauford Delaney created it, he had moved from New York City to Paris, France. He was living in a new place, and his art took a new direction.

While living in New York, Delaney filled his canvases with people and places.
Traveling to Paris gave Delaney a new sense of freedom.
A “starving artist” must use his resources creatively.

African Americans in Paris: Like Delaney, many African Americans moved from the United States to Paris, France. African American jazz musicians, including Josephine Baker, Arthur Briggs, Benny Carter, and Dextor Gordon, all moved to Paris beginning in the 1920s. Use the Library or the internet to learn about these musicians and listen to their music. Why did they move to Paris? Select one musician and write an essay about his or her life.  

Painting Techniques: Delaney used palette knives, his fingers, colors squirted directly from paint tubes, and a brush to make Untitled. Create your own painting using some of these different techniques and tools. Compare how each technique applies the paint. What is your favorite method?  

Compare and Contrast: Delaney was inspired by the artwork of Claude Monet. Take a closer look at Monet's The Japanese Bridge. How is the painting similar to Delaney's Untitled? Different? Write a short essay to compare and contrast the artworks.  

Visual Elements Poem: Look closely at Untitled and write a phrase or sentence for each of the following formal elements:color, line, shape, texture. Then combine the four phrases to create a poem.
Curling and swirling lines
Blotches of yellow
Thick like frosting.  

December 2004