Partner Richard Olney, James Baldwin
142 Imp. des Raynauds, 83210 Solliès-Toucas, France
Chemin du Pilon, 06570 Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France
Bernard Hassell (1930–1991) was a black understudy at the Folies Bergères, a close friend for life of James Baldwin. His lover was white American painter Richard Olney.
Richard Olney and Bernard Hassell, owned a home at Solliès-Toucas. Author Justin Spring describes Olney and Hassell's home as a "ruined shepherd's cottage," a "one-bedroom home" featuring "a combination kitchen and hearth as its main room." He says that the terrace was the place where guests gathered and describes a "dining table tucked into a combination of sun awning and grape arbor" there. Olney decorated the terrace with a string of lights and planted flowers and herbs on parterres below. The house had a southeastern exposure, which provided for plenty of sun most of the year. The surrounding land consisted of seven acres of olive groves.
Hassell was one of Beauford Delaney's closest friends. He cared for Beauford when Beauford was physically ill or mentally fragile. The French government named him one of the trustees of Beauford's affairs when Beauford was committed to Sainte-Anne's Hospital in 1975. Biographer David Leeming notes that when he stayed with Beauford prior to driving him to Istanbul for a visit with James Baldwin, Beauford showed him "an amazing profusion of yellow abstractions intermingled with extraordinary portraits whom the painter identified as Walter Anderson, James Baldwin, Bernard Hassell, and many others." A portrait of Bernard Hassell was shown in the Beauford Delaney: A Retrospective (50 Years of Light) exhibition at the Philippe Briet Gallery in New York in February - March 1991.
In June 1968, Hassell took Beauford to the south of France after finding him wandering the streets in confusion after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leeming indicates that they stayed in three places over a period of six weeks, including a "castle" in Avignon. In a 1968 portrait of Hassell, perhaps Beauford is portraying him in the image of this or another building in which they resided during this extended trip. The inscription in this portrait seems to indicate "Sadagne France." This may be a reference to the town of Châteauneuf de Gadagne, which is not far from Avignon.
Portrait of Bernard Hassell (1968) Gouache on paper Private collection © Estate of Beauford Delaney by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator
Bernard Hassell (ca. 1971) Oil on canvas Private collection © Estate of Beauford Delaney by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator
Soullis Toucas (Beauford's gift to Roy Freeman) Oil on canvas © Estate of Beauford Delaney, by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator
In 1971, Beauford once again suffered serious psychological trauma upon learning of the death of his nephew, Sam (Junior). Biographer Leeming describes him as going into "several weeks of steep decline" as a result. James Baldwin learned of Beauford's condition and had him brought to Baldwin's new home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, where Hassell had taken up residence in the gatehouse.
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE