Lawrence (Larry) Calcagno (1913-1993) was an American abstract expressionist painter from San Francisco. Larry served in the army in WWII, and enrolled on the G.I. Bill to the California School of Fine Arts, studying with Mark Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn, and Clifford Still. He left for Paris in 1951 to study at L’Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. In the early 1950s, Calcagno and Delaney became friends and remained so until Beauford’s death. Larry took Beauford to Ibiza in 1956, where they were joined by James Baldwin. The book, An Artistic Friendship, Beauford Delaney and Lawrence Calcagno, by Joyce Henri Robinson (2001) is devoted entirely to the unlikely relationship of the two expatriate painters.
Excerpt from Beauford and Larry, the foreword by David Leeming to the book, An Artistic Friendship, Beauford Delaney and Lawrence Calcagno:
In Paris Beauford met Larry Calcagno, who quickly became a soul brother and an ally against the voices. They drank together, traveled together, painted portraits of each other, and spent many hours discussing their inner lives, and especially their craft. But in less than two years after they met, Larry returned to the States. Until Beauford’s defeat at the hand of his mental demons in the late seventies, the two men corresponded regularly, and Larry returned from time to time to visit his friend. Beauford measured his life by these visits. If Larry were coming the voices were stilled.
The Delaney-Calcagno friendship was one based in deep love and respect. With James Baldwin, Larry was among the very first to recognize in Beauford’s canvases the mark of genius. He never stopped encouraging his friend, urging him to fight his depression, slipping much-appreciated 5-dollar bills into his letters from New York, and leaving behind art supplies after his visits. And Beauford’s letters to Larry were those of a philosophical and doting older brother whose advice spanned such territories as sexuality, religion, and as always, especially art.
Marc Albert-Levin, a French author and art critic recently commented on Delaney’s portraiture after viewing the exhibition, Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color (Columbia Global Centers, Paris, April 16. 2016):
In Beauford’s portraits there is something that might have more to do with the empathy felt by the painter for his model than with pictorial technique. An effort, when he faces the man or the woman he is looking at, to find another resemblance, deeper than the photographic one. A clean sweep of all conventions, including perspective, in order to find, when looking at a person, which colors define him or her best.