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The Art of JAMA
August 21, 2013

Self-portrait: Beauford Delaney

JAMA. 2013;310(7):668-669. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.5262

The skin tone of Beauford Delaney’s (1901-1979) Self-portrait is a blend of white, purple, blue, and taupe, with highlights of avocado green to match the background, and he is posed in a three-quarter turn to the right with a sidelong glance at the mirror (or at the viewer, depending on one’s perspective). His eyes convey different moods: the left eyebrow is raised in an expression of alarm, but the lens of the right eye is a ghostly white. A self-portrait invites speculation about the artist’s state of mind as well as his technique. Sometimes the state of mind of an artist is irrelevant—most of the self-portraits of Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh were probably made to try out new painting methods—but the life story of Beauford Delaney suggests he may be saying something in this portrait about his inner struggles.