Insight on the Artists: Beauford Delaney

The Menokin Foundation is currently hosting a traveling exhibit from the VMFA (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts) through the end of March.  These insights are designed to give you a better understanding of the artists and their work. The exhibit is FREE, so don’t miss the opportunity to come see for yourself. 

On display at Menokin is another artist, Beauford Delaney, American, 1901–1979, an American modernist painter. He achieved an artist’s education in Boston where his black activist politics and ideas became established through associations with some of the most sophisticated and radical African-Americans of the time. By 1929, the essentials of his artistic education complete, Beauford decided to leave Boston and head for New York.

Beauford DelaneyGreene Street, 1946
Beauford Delaney Greene Street, 1946

He is remembered for his work with the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s and 1940s of energetic urban street scenes. Harlem was an exciting place, then the center of black cultural life in the United States. But it was also the time of the Great Depression. Delaney felt an immediate affinity with this city people of all races – spending every night in parks and cafes, surviving on next to nothing. His colorful paintings from his Greenwich Village neighborhood, repeatedly depicting commonplace elements such as fire escapes, lampposts, and hydrants are represented in this painting, Greene Street,1946.

He had many friends among local painters and writers and was an integral part of the artistic life of the community. In time, Delaney would establish himself as a well known part of the art scene. His friends included the poet laureate of the period, Countee Cullen, would become the “spiritual father” to the young writer James Baldwin, and a friend of artist Georgia O’Keeffe and writer Henry Miller among many others. Writer Henry Miller recalled visiting Delaney’s apartment and studio on Greene Street and seeing “some small canvases of street scenes. They were virulent, explosive paintings…They were all Greene Street through and through, only invested with color, mad with color; they were full of remembrances too, and solitudes.”

Delaney_Marian Anderson_1965
Marian Anderson, 1965 

In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. The incident placed Anderson into the spotlight of the international community on a level unusual for a classical musician. With the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. She sang before a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions.


In Greenwich Village, where his studio was, Delaney became part of a gay bohemian circle of mainly white friends; but he was furtive and rarely comfortable with his sexuality.  The pressures of being “black and gay in a racist and homophobic society” was difficult. Delaney had tremendous pride in black achievement and also participated in a number of black artists exhibitions with fellow artists like Jacob Lawrence, and Romare Bearden.

In 1953, at the age of 52, Delaney left New York for Paris. Europe had already attracted many other African-American artists and writers who had found a greater sense of freedom there. Writers Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Richard Gibson, and artists Harold Cousins, had all preceded him in journeying to Europe. His years in Paris would lead to a dramatic stylistic shift from the figurative compositions of New York life to abstract expressionist studies of color and light. Delaney believed various hues held spiritual significance and was drawn to the color yellow, which he felt possessed the properties of light, healing, and redemption.


Insight on the Artists: Charles Wilbert White

The Menokin Foundation is currently hosting a traveling exhibit from the VMFA (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts) through the end of March.  These insights are designed to give you a better understanding of the artists and their work. The exhibit is FREE, so don’t miss the opportunity to come see for yourself. 

On display at Menokin this month is a reproduction from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts of The Guitarist, 1959. Charles White’s meticulously executed drawings and paintings speak of and affirm the humanity and beauty of African American people and culture.

From VMFA transcripts, Charles White said this of his work:

“I believe in the transcendent power of music.  I studied the violin  for about nine years.  My mother insisted on music, even though art was the most important thing for me.  Later, I became interested in dance and I studied modern dance for awhile.  I also illustrated a book, Songs Belafonte Sings.  Harry Belafonte and I have been very close friends for a number of years, and he’s been a great help to me in expressing my ideas in art.

I guess the most important thing is to say something that is meaningful.  I’ve boiled it down to three things I’ve essentially tried to do.  The first is that I try to deal with truth, as truth may be revealed in my personal interpretation.  Truth in a very spiritual sense, underscoring the sense of the inner man.  Second, I try to deal with beauty; the beauty in man and the beauty in life.  I come from the perspective that man is basically good.  I’ve lived in the South, and we’ve had 5 lynchings in my family, and I’ve been beaten up twice, once in New Orleans and once in Virginia.  But in spite of my experiences, and my family’s experiences and tragedies, I still feel that man is essentially good.  I have to start from this premise in all my work because I’m incapable of doing meaningful work that has to do with something I hate.  The third thing I try to deal with is dignity.  I think that once man is robbed of his dignity he is nothing.

I focus primarily on my people and try to give my images universality – meaning an enduring sense of truth and beauty.  I always feel that the artist only does meaningful things when he draws upon that which is closest to him, and he uses that as a springboard to deal with a more broad, all-encompassing subject.  It is only natural to have a special concern to my own people – their history, their culture, their struggle to survive in this, a racist country.  I’m proud of being black.  However, my philosophy doesn’t exclude any nation or race of people.”

Charles Wilbert White (April 2, 1918 – October 3, 1979)

Charles White is one of America’s most renowned and recognized African-American & Social Realist artists. He worked primarily in black & white or sepia & white drawings, paintings, and lithographs. His artwork encompassed an incredibly skilled draftsmanship and artistic sensitivity and power that has reached and moved millions. Common subjects of his artwork included scenes depicting African-American history in the United States, socio-economic struggles, human relationships, and portraits.

He is best known for his WPA era murals, especially The Contribution of the Negro to American Democracy, a mural at Hampton University, depicting a number of notable blacks including Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Peter Salem, George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Marian Anderson.

Charles Wilbert White was born on the South Side of Chicago. Due to the poverty of his parents, his parents could not afford a babysitter while they worked, so his mother would leave him at the library. This caused a young Charles to develop an affinity towards art and reading at a young age. White received a full scholarship to be a full-time student at the Art Institute of Chicago. White also began working as a Works Progress Administration artist, and was later jailed for forming a union with fellow black artists who were being treated unfairly and wanted equal rights. 

Following his graduation from the Art Institute of Chicago, White moved to New Orleans in 1941. He taught at Dillard University and was briefly married to famed sculptor and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett who also taught at Dillard. Beyond this, White also taught at the Otis Art Institute from 1965 to his death in 1979.

White and his wife Frances Barrett moved to California in 1956, which was the beginning of White’s career as a Los Angeles artist. He had several shows in Los Angeles, and was represented by the Heritage Gallery.

Charles White was on faculty at Otis Art Institute (now Otis College of Art and Design) from 1965 to 1979 where he taught many African American students who came to study with him including Alonzo Davis, David Hammons, and Kerry James Marshall. 

Discover more at

VMFA Traveling Exhibit: African American Mosaic

BY: Alice French | Menokin Education and Outreach Coordinator

Hi! Be sure to attend this traveling exhibit at Menokin until March 31st. It’s called the African American Mosaic. Included in the exhibit are 11 images of art by African Americans from 1850 to present.
Juliana at the selfie wall in the style of Gustav Klimt.

We also have a selfie wall with props, to create a setting similar to a Kehinde Wiley portrait, which we would love you to use and share on social media (just use tag #VFMAatMenokin). Wiley is the portrait artist who just completed Barack Obama’s presidential portrait for the National Portrait Gallery.  

We also have information on Amy Sherald, an African American woman (seeing as it is now Women’s History Month) who painted Michelle Obama’s official portrait for the National Portrait Gallery.

Shantavia Beale II” (detail) by Kehinde Wiley, 2012

This is a great opportunity to expose yourself to world class artwork close to home, and see part of the VMFA’s great collection, which our Statewide Community Partnership allows us to bring to the Northern Neck.

At Menokin it is our goal to continue to share our resources with our community. It’s so important to bring relevant art and history to rural areas like ours.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. But it’s only here until the end of March, so don’t wait too long!

Madeira and the American Revolution

The history of Madeira is “a bit” murky and “a lot” thought provoking. Our personal fondness and affiliation with the drink stems from the ample supply of Madeira found in the inventory of Frank Lee after his death.

Menokin Wine Cellar (c) Hullihen Williams Moore

(SIDE THOUGHT: Wouldn’t it be FUN to have a Madeira tasting party in the wine cellar at Menokin? Email us if you’re interested. )

We have touched on the topic once before, with this interview with Julia Pearson and Bartholomew Broadbent about the history of Madeira and how it went from dreadful to delicious through a happy shipping misadventure.

But up until now, we haven’t given the Malmsey the credit it deserves in the formation of a more perfect union.  In a recent post on Atlas Obscura, writer Daniel Crown explores the Colonial obsession with Madeira in an article titled How a Thirst for Portuguese Wine Fueled the American RevolutionIt’s a good read chock full of quirky facts and figures. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • On August 8, 1775, two months after taking charge of his army, George Washington procured a large cask of the wine, as well as empty bottles, corks, and other paraphernalia. Over the next six months, he purchased hundreds of additional bottles and, eventually, an entire “pipe” (a term derived from the Portuguese word for barrel, “pipa”). A pipe of madeira held enough wine to fill 700 bottles, and a cask roughly the same. Washington, then, in preparation for war, ordered at least 1,900 bottles worth of the wine to be shared among his closest aides and confidants. (Party on, George!)
  • In 1766, John Hancock celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act by setting two pipes of madeira out in front of his house for public consumption.  (Party on, large signature guy!)
  • In 1774, John Adams reported to his wife, Abigail, that after tedious days of contentious debate, delegates to the First Continental Congress would sit for hours “drinking Madeira, Claret, and Burgundy.” (Party on, Founding Fathers!)

(ANOTHER SIDE THOUGHT: We would love to have a signature Menokin Madeira created for us. If you are, or know, an adventurous winemaker, let’s chat. You know our email address.)

What do Menokin and NNEC have in common? Jay Garner!

A familiar face on the Menokin Foundation’s Board of Trustees is now the new public relations manager at Northern Neck Electric Cooperative (NNEC).

Jay’s duties will include writing the NNEC pages for Cooperative Living Magazine, managing internal and external communications and overseeing social media outlets.

Join us in congratulating Jay on his new position!

2018 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Architectural Education goes to Jorge Silvetti


Search “Harvard Graduate School of Design” on Menokin’s blog for more posts about their collaboration with The Menokin Glass House project.

2018 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Architectural Education
Jorge Silvetti, Int’l Assoc. AIA
Jorge Silvetti-02
2018 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Architectural Education Recipient

Born in Argentina, Jorge Silvetti has taught at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design since 1975, serving as a gifted professor and mentor, and with Rodolfo Machado has worked as a design leader in Boston since 1974. While his influence at GSD was most strongly felt from 1995–2002, when he served as chair of the architecture program, he has propagated a distinct school of thought among the design professionals who have graduated in the past 42 years.

“This is not a stylization of architecture that is visually and immediately identifiable, but a way of thinking about history, precedent, and the contextual complexities of architectural production that has inspired generations of architects and educators such as myself,” wrote Christian Dagg, AIA, head of the Auburn University School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, in a letter nominating Silvetti for the AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion.

Currently the Nelson Robinson, Jr. Professor of Architecture at Harvard, Silvetti leads design studios and delivers regular lectures on history, contemporary theory, and criticism. His groundbreaking 1977 essay “The Beauty of Shadows” provided a compelling argument for how a profession caught between postmodernism and deconstruction should proceed. Later works co-authored with Machado that expanded upon his arguments have greatly influenced his students as well as other schools of design nationwide. The list of deans and department chairs who were former students, colleagues, or employees of Silvetti is long and impressive.

“As chair of the architecture program at Harvard, his emphasis on design as a form of research, coupled with his expansion of the field of architecture to include other design practices, had a profound effect on the discipline at large—an influence that can still be felt today,” Mónica Ponce de León, dean and professor at Princeton University’s School of Architecture, wrote in a letter supporting Silvetti’s nomination. “Through conferences, symposia, and exhibitions, Silvetti brought allied disciplines in conversation with architecture—long before interdisciplinary became a catchphrase in academia.”

Since 1986 Silvetti has overseen a number of research programs, including an examination of Sicily’s urbanism and architecture that won a Progressive Architecture award. Other projects have explored the future of public space in the shifting metropolis of Buenos Aires and the future development of previously industrial Bilbao, Spain. He is a recipient of the Rome Prize, and since 1996 has served as a Pritzker Architecture Prize juror. In 2000, he was a juror for the former Mies van der Rohe Prize for Latin American Architecture.

Beyond academia, Silvetti’s work in association with Rodolfo Machado since 1974 and under different professional firms that they founded and led (presently MACHADO SILVETTI), has been widely celebrated. Run like a studio where all employees contribute ideas and everyone shares in the learning experience, the firm’s notable projects include work at many major Universities and Colleges in the U.S., (among them Dartmouth and Bowdoin Colleges, Princeton, Harvard, Rice, and Arizona State universities), abroad at the American University in Beirut and the Vietnamese and German University in Vietnam, as well as notable cultural and educational institutions such as the Getty Trust in the U.S. The firm received the First Award in Architecture from the American University of Arts and Letters in 1991 and numerous design awards and citations from AIA.

“After teaching for many years and participating in many conversations, he stands among a select group of peers,” wrote Machado in a letter supporting his partner’s nomination. “In fact there are only a few still fully engaged in teaching, who have witnessed and indeed participated in the wild swings of academic pedagogy—from the post-modern to the parametric to the current heterotopic panorama. Throughout all of it, Jorge has been committed to teaching the core canons of architecture while simultaneously supporting those innovating people and emerging projects that benefit the core and expand the reach of architecture.”


Chere R. LeClair, AIA, Chair, LeClair Architects, Bozeman, Montana

Don Keshika De Saram, Assoc. AIA, AIAS President, Washington DC

Donna Kacmar, FAIA, University of Houston, Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, Houston

Toshiko Mori, FAIA, Toshiko Mori Architect, PLLC, New York City

Nader Tehrani, Dean, The Cooper Union, Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, New York City

Image credits

Jorge Silvetti-02


A Season of Thanks

Thank you to everyone who has touched, or been touched by, Menokin in some way in 2017. We have had a remarkable year of growth and planning. Our programs are reaching more people than ever and we experienced a record number of visitors.

Now, during this season of celebration, it’s important to pause for quiet and mindfulness. Take a different path. Appreciate the timeless workings of nature transitioning to another season.

We offer you the gift of Menokin. It’s all here waiting for you. The road less traveled by.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us.

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