Early Abstract and Modernist Painting

Beauford Delaney (1901–1979)

Untitled (Village Street Scene), 1948

Oil on canvas, 29 × 40 in. (73.7 × 101.6 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, 2018.2

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Beauford Delaney moved to New York City in 1929 and became captivated by the urban landscape. Seeking to convey the energy of modern life in his paintings, Delaney blended social realism’s interest in the life of the streets with an expressionistic variant of abstract expressionism. Untitled (Village Street Scene) is emblematic of this distinctive interpretation of life in New York City. In 1936 Delaney moved to a studio on Greene Street in Soho and painted several versions of intersections similar to this one around his neighborhood. He relays the corner’s noisy dynamism with vibrant colors, animated lines, and markers of the urban environment— street lamps, trash cans, and manhole covers. With its clarity of subject matter, assertive palette, and bold outlines, Untitled (Village Street Scene) is a buoyant interpretation of the artist’s interest in the rhythms of urban life.