The Artist's Party

Joseph Delaney (American, 1904-1991)

Currently on View in K205
Image Licensing

Delaney often focused on his personal experiences as an African American. Here, he presents himself among his fellow artists.

The artist, shown with his back to the viewer, is talking to a man believed to be the Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock, who was one of his friends.

Delaney combines aggressive brushwork, exaggerated poses, and a tendency toward caricature to suggest the group’s animated conversation.

Artistic Camaraderie

Joseph Delaney arrived in New York from Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1930, near the end of the Harlem Renaissance. He settled in Harlem and enrolled at the Art Students League in New York, where he met Jackson Pollock. The two became close friends, and they exhibited together at the second annual Washington Square Outdoor Show in April 1932. Delaney particularly enjoyed painting scenes of his colleagues’ discussions, which took place in his Harlem apartment and included artists like Jackson Pollock. Delaney was influenced by his teacher Thomas Hart Benton, whose lively paintings focused on the American scene. Delaney’s expressionist style, with its exaggerated poses, focused on his personal experiences as an African American. Delaney never thought of himself as different from other artists and did not think of his art as “black art.” It expressed not only what he was familiar with, but also the human condition.

He viewed himself as an equal among artists, which is apparent in The Artist’s Party, where he sits at the head of the table in animated conversation with Jackson Pollock (seated to his right). The names of the other two artists have been suggested, but none have been confirmed. Outside the window of his Harlem apartment is a familiar New York fire escape, and inside is a stove with two pots, an oval mirror, and hooks from which hang hats and a sack, creating an intimate atmosphere that adds to the sense of camaraderie. The artists smoke and hold drinks, engaged in heated conversation. Delaney’s rich color palette enhances the dynamic composition, which displays his spontaneous and energetic brushwork.

Collection of Derek Beard; (ACA Galleries), New York, New York; purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2003.

Object Information

Joseph Delaney (American, 1904-1991)
creation date
oil on canvas
30 x 25 in.
accession number
credit line
Gift of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Indianapolis Chapter, Mr. Kim Anderson, and the Estate of Hermine Floch by exchange
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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