Considered one of the most important American artists of the 20th century, Romare Bearden’s artwork depicted African American culture and experience in creative and thought-provoking ways. Born in North Carolina in 1911, Bearden spent much of his career in New York City. His early works were realistic images, often with religious themes, later transitioning to abstract and Cubist style paintings in oil and watercolor. He is best known for his photomontage compositions made from torn images of popular magazines and assembled into visually powerful statements on African American life.
Born September 2, 1911, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bearden was the only child of Richard and Bessye Bearden. The family moved to New York City when he was a toddler, where their household was a gathering place for Harlem Renaissance luminaries such as W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington.
The works of Bearden’s cover a wide range of techniques, themes, and styles. In college, Bearden aspired to be a cartoonist, drawing for and then editing Boston College’s humor magazine in the early 1930s. He continued his cartooning after he moved to New York City to attend New York University. After college, he joined an artist group and became excited about modern art, particularly Cubism, Futurism, post-Impressionism and Surrealism. He traveled to France to study at the Sorbonne.
Though Bearden was vastly prolific, he is not that widely recognized as a major American artist. The American art world possessed the same prejudices and segregation of society. Also, Bearden’s work is hard to categorize. But during this life and after, his exhibitions have received enthusiastic reviews and critical praise and he was recognized with multiple awards and honorary doctorates.