The Personification of Art

The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is not an over-exaggeration, especially when comparing it to a painting. Beauford Delaney’s Self Portrait shows an expression of fear, shock, and awareness in a single glance. Any quick synopsis of the masterpiece will highlight this feature, for instance, Dr. Thomas B. Cole summarizes this detail in his 2013 Art for Jama article saying “The left eyebrow is raised in an expression of alarm, but the lens of the right eye is a ghostly white” (Cole TB). This image on its own can say a lot about the times Delaney was alive. Segregation in the United States was normal and violence of homosexuality was rampant. Similar to James Baldwin, as Dr. Cole summarizes, Delaney finds comfort in moving to Europe, specifically Paris, where he is able to find some form of respect for his race and sexual orientation. This need to leave behind his home shows the grief Delaney had for his country and the cruelty he faced throughout his life. The portrait of himself shows with heavy bags under his eyes, a sign of a mature man, in this case, a person who has seen the awful ways of life in America and the complete disregard for life, especially that of Black and Homosexual communities. His left eye, “ghostly white,” gives an impression of a corpse, someone who has been deemed by society as insufficient and given less worth. These grave circumstances may be what have led him to go mad, Deleney passed away in an asylum in France after coming across psychological issues (Smithsonian). A portrait like this can represent many things, and it is important to take a moment and look further into the artwork to find the connections between artists and the issues they confront in their lives.