Joseph Delaney (artist)

Joseph Delaney (1904 – November 21, 1991) was an African-American artist who became a part of the New York art scene at the time of the Harlem Renaissance.

Joseph Delaney
Joseph Delaney (artist).jpg
Knoxville, Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee
EducationArt Students League of New York
MovementHarlem Renaissance,
Works Progress Administration

Early life and educationEdit

Delaney was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, one of ten children of a Methodist minister.[1] He was the younger brother of Beauford Delaney, with whom he shared an interest in drawing. In his late teens and early 20s, Delaney spent a period of years without a settled home before joining the Eighth Infantry Regiment, Illinois National Guard.[1]

In 1930, Delaney moved to New York City, where he enrolled in the Art Students League.[2] His first teacher was Alexander Brook. He studied human anatomy under Thomas Hart Benton and experimented with the expressive line. He later cited Benton as a major influence, saying, "Benton will be with me always".[1] During his free time, Delaney sketched the people and places around him.


During the Great Depression, he was employed by the Works Progress Administration. He taught children's art classes, drew renderings of silver by Paul Revere, and eventually joined the easel division. Around the time that the WPA ceased to operate, Delaney was awarded a grant from the Julius Rosenwald Fund.[2] From the summer of 1942 until January 1943, he used the grant to travel the eastern seaboard and create a series that documented the lives of black laborers.

Delaney lived and worked in New York until 1986, showing his work in New York’s Washington Square for decades.[3]

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.[1]

Throughout his life, Delaney was committed to opposing racial discrimination, and his work reveals a "deep concern for the lives of common people."[4]


The Art Institute of Chicago, the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the David Owsley Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum are among the museums holding works by Joseph Delaney.[5] In 1968, he published a pamphlet which summarized his experience as an artist in New York entitled, Thirty-six Years Exhibiting in the Washington Square Outdoor Art Show.[6]


Year Title Institution
1986 Retrospective University of Tennessee
2004 Life in the City: The Art of Joseph Delaney University of Tennessee - Downtown Gallery
2008 African American Art: 200 Years


  1. ^ a b c d Yates, Sam. "Joseph Delaney". Archived from the original on 2009-01-31. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  2. ^ a b Powell, Richard J.; Mecklenberg, Virginia M. (2012). African American art : Harlem Renaissance, civil rights era, and beyond (1. publ. ed.). New York: Skira Rizzoli. ISBN 9780847838905. OCLC 826013708.
  3. ^ Joseph Delaney 1904–1991 at
  4. ^ "Joseph Delaney". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  5. ^ Joseph Delaney (African-American, 1904-1991) at
  6. ^ Exhibit-E. "Joseph Delaney (1904-1991) - Artists - Michael Rosenfeld Art". Retrieved 2018-03-10.

Further readingEdit

  • Frederick C. Moffatt. 2009. The Life, Art, and Times of Joseph Delaney, 1904–1991.