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 David D. Delafield  (1920 - 2003)

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Lived/Active: Washington      Known for: painting, prints

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Ad Code: 4
David D. Delafield
David D. Delafield, Himself (Self-Portrait with Pipe), 1966
oil on canvas, 12" x 10"

Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
David D. Delafield (1920-2003)

An American painter and printmaker, David D. Delafield was born on April 7, 1920, in East Aurora, New York.  His hometown was the center of a well-known Arts and Crafts colony that was founded by Elbert Hubbard, called the Roycroft Workshops.  Hubbard and his wife Alice had perished five years earlier when the Lusitania was torpedoed, but the colony remained active as Delafield was growing up.

In the wake of the Great Depression, Delafield’s father business failed, and his family moved to Celina, Ohio.  At age 18, Delafield chose to study art at nearby Miami University of Ohio, in Oxford, but that was interrupted when his father committed suicide.  Delafield left school to ride the rails and hitchhike with his older brother, to look for employment in the Western states. When he returned in 1939 (the year that World War II began), he entered the BFA program at Ohio State University in Columbus.  There, one of his classmates was a slightly younger student named Roy Lichtenstein, who would eventually become a famous Pop Artist.  In later years, both Delafield and Lichtenstein claimed that the teacher at Ohio State who had influenced them the most was a drawing and painting professor named Hoyt L. Sherman, and, in 1994, Lichtenstein provided the funds for a new OSU facility called the Sherman Studio Art Center.

Delafield’s undergraduate studies were interrupted by America’s entry into the war, during which, as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Force, he served as a bombardier on a B24H bomber, christened by its crew as the “Bodacious Critter.”  As the outfit’s artist, Delafield painted the “nose art” on the airplane’s sides.  During eight months of airborne missions, he and his team made fifty-one bombing flights over Europe.

When the war ended, Delafield returned to Columbus and, over the next seven years (1945-1952), he earned three degrees at OSU (BFA, MA and PhD).  Throughout his graduate studies, he worked closely with Hoyt Sherman, who had become widely known in art education for teaching drawing in the dark, in a specially designed pitch-dark studio or “flash lab.”  In 1946, having earned his MA degree, Delafield and his family moved to the Northwest Coast, where he taught briefly at Washington State University at Pullman.  Then, in the summer of 1948, he built a fold-down trailer and drove across the country to Cape Cod, where he lived on the beach while attending Hans Hofmann’s studio school in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Soon after, he returned to Columbus, Ohio, to earn a PhD in painting.

In 1951, he accepted what he intended to be a temporary teaching position at Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa) in Cedar Falls (ironically, it was the town in which Alice Hubbard had once taught elementary school).  At the time, Delafield was the only member of the ISTC art faculty who had been trained not in art education but instead in studio art.  There he taught painting and drawing for 32 years, until his retirement in 1983.  During his teaching career, he also traveled extensively in Europe, Mexico and the U.S.; constructed and performed with elaborate bunraku puppets; and served on occasion as a police sketch artist for local law enforcement agencies.

A large three-part retrospective of his life’s work was held in June through September 2003 at three Iowa art centers, the James and Meryl Hearst Center for the Arts (Cedar Falls), the University of Northern Iowa Gallery of Art, and the Waterloo Center for the Arts (Waterloo, Iowa).  Soon after, on December 26, he died of the consequences of Alzheimer’s disease.

Sources:
Roy R. Behrens, “Seeing and Teaching Through Drawing: The Life and Work of David D. Delafield” in David Delafield: A Retrospective Exhibition in Three Parts (exhibition catalog).  Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa: James and Meryl Hearst Center for the Arts University of Northern Iowa Gallery of Art, and Waterloo Center for the Arts, 2003.

_____, “Drawing in the Dark: Rembrandt, Pearl Harbor, and the Flash Lab” in Print (January-February 1991), pp. 92-99ff.  Also on the internet at http://www.bobolinkbooks.com/Ames/DrawingInDark.html.

Anon, “David Delafield (1920-2003)” Obituary in Waterloo Courier (December 28, 2003).

Information provided by Roy R. Behrens, who was a student of David D. Delafield at the University of Northern Iowa in 1964-68.

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