Works in the Collection
Romare Howard Bearden was born on September 2, 1911, to (Richard) Howard and Bessye Bearden in Charlotte, North Carolina. Bearden graduated from Peabody High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1929, and enrolled in Lincoln University. He later transferred to Boston University, where he worked as art director for the student humor magazine. Bearden then continued his studies at New York University. He studied art, education, science, and mathematics, and graduated with a degree in science and education in 1935. He then continued his artistic studies at the Art Students League in 1936-37. To support himself during his studies, he created political cartoons for African-American newspapers, including the Baltimore Afro-American, where he published a weekly cartoon for two years.
Bearden’s earliest paintings frequently depicted the American South, and his style was heavily influenced by Mexican muralists such as the renowned Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. After serving in World War II, Bearden’s work appeared in several well-publicized shows. His work began to combine African symbols with stylized realism. In 1950, he traveled to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. While in Paris, he met James Baldwin, Constantin Brancusi, and George Braque, all of whom influenced his work. He returned to New York City in 1954. Later, during the 1960s Civil Rights movement, Bearden began experimenting with collage. Throughout the course of 10 years, Bearden greatly altered his collage techniques, switching from magazines and colored paper to photographic images, silk screens, colored paper, and billboard pieces to create large collages on canvas and fiberboard.
Romare Bearden has received numerous awards, publications, and exhibitions, including the National Medal of the Arts, and was honored with a retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in 2003. He served as art director of the Harlem Cultural Council and helped establish the Cinque Gallery in 1969 along with renowned artists Norman Lewis and Ernest Crichlow. In 1969, he wrote The Painter’s Mind: A Study of the Relations of Structure and Space with Carl Holty, one of the several books he would help create throughout his career. Bearden’s work has been exhibited and collected by such prestigious institutions as the National Gallery of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Smithsonian Institution, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, among many others. He died in New York City in 1988 at the age of 76.
Two years after his death, the Romare Bearden Foundation was formed. It not only serves as Bearden’s official estate, but it also aims to preserve and solidify Bearden’s legacy. As of 2023, the foundation has begun to develop a grant-giving program to fund and support young emerging artists and scholars.