Can Fire in the Park

  • Beauford Delaney, Can Fire in the Park, 1946, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase, 1989.23

Exhibition Label

Can Fire in the Park is as much a swirling vignette of thickly applied paint as it is an image of a place. Delaney developed a vocabulary of signs -- streetlights, fire hydrants, manhole covers, and zigzagging fire escapes -- that became emblematic riffs on city life. In Can Fire, the bright yellow orbs of streetlamps and the glow of the moon against a cloud-filled night sky and hear from the fire embrace the men with waves of color and light. Delaney struggled financially for most of his life, so this empathetic scene may also represent a night he once spent on a park bench and the amity he shared with other homeless men.

African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012


Can Fire in the Park
On View
Not on view.
24 x 30 in. (61.0 x 76.2 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Museum purchase

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • State of being – other – poverty
  • Figure group
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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