African American Artists during the Twentieth Century
Beauford Delaney, Can Fire in the Park (1946). Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. / Art Resource, NY
The city of New York provided rich subject matter for African American artists working in the middle of the twentieth century. Artists who came to the area during and after the period of the Harlem Renaissance found a vibrant community of artists working both uptown in Harlem and downtown in the East Village. When Beauford Delaney settled in New York in the late 1930s he quickly became a part of the interracial bohemian lifestyle that was characteristic of other New York School artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem deKooning. He and his younger brother Joseph Delaney, who would also become a well-known painter, often chose gritty urban subjects like that seen in Can Fire in the Park—themes that recognized the economic difficulties faced by some in post-World War II America using an expressionistic visual language of bright colors and vibrant line.