Bearden was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1914. Soon after his birth, his family moved to New York City's Harlem. During the mid-1930s, when Bearden was a student of George Grosz at the Art Students League, he founded the "306 Group" for black artists living in Harlem.
Romare Bearden was honored during his lifetime and posthumously with numberous prestigious awards, publications and exhibitions. Along with representation in the importatn public and private collections he was awarded the National Medal of the Arts and honored with a groundbreaking retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Art. A master collagist, Bearden is celebrated today as a preeminent, highly prolific artist of exceptional and multifaceted talents and interests. He was a jazz aficionado, and author of scholoarly books, a song writer/lyricist as well an arts activist and an engaged humanist. Bearden incorporated into his art work a rich ontage of influences from American, African, Asian and European art and culture and took inspiration from memories and experiences of the rural South, the urban North and the Caribbean.
After he served in the army during World War II, Bearden's work appeared in several well-publicized shows. During the 1940s, he combined African symbols, such as masks and "conjur women" with stylized realism. In 1950, he went to Paris and enrolled at the Sorbonne. 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.
After his stay in Paris, Bearden's work became more abstract. He used oil paint almost as if it were watercolor, layering washes of indistinct shape over thickened bars of woven colors. Shapes seem to float on the surface, in part because of their softened, muted tones.
Bearden was profoundly influenced by the civil rights movement of the 1960s. During this period he used collage to express the rhythms of black music. Symbolic masks and faces float in interiors and landscapes.
In 1963, Bearden began work on the "Prevalence of Ritual" series. Prevalence of Ritual: Tidings (1973, North Carolina National Bank Corporation), a collage of cut and torn paper with polymer paint, is typical of the way he mingles abstract shapes and landscapes to evoke his memories of the customs and ceremonies of the black south.
Throughout his career, Bearden has promoted opportunities for black artists. He has served as art director of the Harlem Cultural Council, and helped organize the Cinque Gallery. In 1969, he wrote The Painter's Mind with Carl Holty.
Selected Solo Exhibitions:
2003 The Art of Romare Bearden, retrospective exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Art Washington, DC. Traveled to the Dallas Museum of ARt, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum in New York and the High Museum in Atlanta.
1991 Memory and Metaphor: The Art of Romare Bearden retrospective exhibition organized by the Studio Museum of Harlem. Traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Wight Gallery, Los Angeles, The High Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, and the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
1971 Romare Bearden: The Prevalence of Ritual, on e of Bearden's first retrospectives opened at the Museum of Modern Art, NY in 1971.
A Graphic Odyssey, an exhibition of his prints traveled for over 6 years to museums all over the U.S. His work is included in many mportant public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Mint Museum, the Detroit Institue of the Arts, and the Dallas Museum of Art.