2019 Acquisition: Joseph Delaney
Joseph Delaney was an African-American artist who became a part of the New York art scene during the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Joseph was one of ten children of a Methodist minister. He and his brother, Beauford, learned to draw on Sunday school cards and took art lessons from well known Knoxvillian, Lloyd Branson. Both brothers left home in the 1920s, and by 1930, Joseph Delaney moved to New York where he enrolled in the Art Students League. There, he studied human anatomy under Thomas Hart Benton and would later cite him as a major influence, saying, “Benton will be with me always.” One of Delaney’s classmates was Jackson Pollock, and you can see the expressive lines used by Benton in both Delaney’s and Pollock’s works.
Delaney spent the next 56 years painting portraits, figure studies, and lively scenes of urban life in lower Manhattan, 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 in 1991. Delaney’s pieces are in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Knoxville Museum of Art and several other notable institutions.