Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden (September 2, 1911 – March 12, 1988)

Romare Bearden (September 2, 1911 – March 12, 1988)

Style: Abstract, Collage

Background: Romare Bearden was born on September 2, 1911 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Education: In 1929 he graduated from Peabody High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He completed his studies at New York University (NYU), graduating with a degree in science and education in 1935.

After he started to focus more on his art and less on athletics, he took courses in art that led to him being a lead cartoonist and art editor for the Eucleian Society’s (a secretive student society at NYU) monthly journal, The Medley.

Achievements: Bearden grew as an artist not by learning how to create new techniques and mediums, but by his life experiences, and the different decades he created art and the different events that took place completely reshaped his vision of art.

During his success in the gallery, however, he produced Golgotha, a painting from his series of the Passion of the Christ (see Figure 1). Golgotha is an abstract representation of the Crucifixion. The eye of the viewer is drawn to the middle of the image first, where Bearden has rendered Christ’s body. The body parts are stylized into abstract geometric shapes, yet still too realistic to be concretely abstract; this work has a feel of early Cubism. The body is in a central position and yet darkly contrasting with the highlighted crowds. The crowds of people are on the left and right, and are encapsulated within large spheres of bright colors of purple and indigo. The background of the painting is depicted in lighter jewel tones dissected with linear black ink. Bearden used these colors and contrasts because of the abstract influence of the time, but also for their meanings.

Bearden intended to not focus on Christ but he wanted to emulate rather the emotions and actions of the crowds gathered around the Crucifixion. He worked hard to “depict myths in an attempt to convey universal human values and reactions”.According to Bearden himself, Christ’s life, death, and resurrection are the greatest expressions of man’s humanism, not because of Christ’s actual existence but the idea of him that lived on through other men. This is why Bearden focuses on Christ’s body first, to portray the idea of the myth, and then highlights the crowd, to show how the idea is passed on to men.

In the late 1950s, Bearden’s work became more abstract, using layers of oil paint to produce muted, hidden effects. In 1956, Bearden began studying with a Chinese calligrapher, whom he credits with introducing him to new ideas about space and composition in painting. He also spent a lot of time studying famous European paintings he admired

Famous Works: 

Romare Bearden - Morning

Romare Bearden – Morning

Romare Bearden - Mother Child

Romare Bearden – Mother Child

Romare Bearden - Mrs Blantons October Table

Romare Bearden – Mrs Blantons October Table

Romare Bearden - One Night Stand

Romare Bearden – One Night Stand

Romare Bearden - Pittsburgh Memory

Romare Bearden – Pittsburgh Memory