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Fri, 09.18.2020

Joseph Delaney, Artist born

*Joseph Delaney was born on this date in 1904.  He was a Black artist.

Delaney was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, one of ten children of a Methodist minister.  He was the younger brother of Beauford Delaney, with whom he shared an interest in drawing. In his late teens and early 20s, Delaney spent years without a settled home before joining the Eighth Infantry Regiment, Illinois National Guard.  In 1930, Delaney moved to New York City, where he enrolled in the Art Students League. 

His first teacher was Alexander Brook. He studied human anatomy under Thomas Hart Benton and experimented with the expressive line. He later cited Benton as a major influence, saying, "Benton will be with me always".  During his free time, Delaney sketched the people and places around him.

During the Great Depression, he was employed by the Works Progress Administration. He taught children's art classes, drew renderings of silver by Paul Revere, and eventually joined the easel division. Around the time that the WPA ceased to operate, Delaney was awarded a grant from the Julius Rosenwald Fund.  From the summer of 1942 until January 1943, he used the grant to travel the eastern seaboard and create a series documenting Black laborers' lives.  In 1968, he published a pamphlet summarizing his experience as an artist in New York entitled, Thirty-six Years Exhibiting in the Washington Square Outdoor Art Show.  Delaney lived and worked in New York until 1986, showing his work in New York’s Washington Square for decades. 

In 1986 he returned to Knoxville to become an artist-in-residence at the University of Tennessee, a position he held until his death on November 21, 1991.  Delaney was committed to opposing racial discrimination throughout his life, and his work reveals a "deep concern for the lives of common people."  The Art Institute of Chicago, the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the David Owsley Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum are among the museums holding works by Joseph Delaney. 

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