Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988) is widely considered to be one of America’s most inventive and important artists. Born in Charlotte, NC, Bearden grew up in a middle-class African American family that moved in 1914 to the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Bearden was raised against this vibrant cultural backdrop in the 1920s; his mother was a reporter for a leading black newspaper, and his home life was marked by the social and intellectual gatherings of well-known musicians, writers, and artists such as Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes. These encounters were foundational for Bearden’s life and art, fostering interests in not only visual art, but in music, history, and literature as well. Bearden frequently returned to the South to visit relatives during his childhood; recollections of these experiences, combined with his dynamic Harlem upbringing, would become the subject matter of many of his works.

Although he experimented with numerous artistic styles and techniques throughout his prolific career, Bearden’s principal medium was collage: a richly textured fusion of fabric, painting, and magazine clippings. His socially conscious work largely focused on African American life and the progression of black rights, depicted in images of Harlem life infused with memories of the South. Bearden was an equally important arts writer, activist, and spokesman, and a founding member of the Harlem Cultural Council and Black Academy of Arts. He was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1972. Bearden’s collages appeared on the covers of Fortune and Time magazines in 1968; his work has been featured in numerous posthumous retrospectives, and is represented in public collections throughout America, including the Whitney and Metropolitan Museums of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Timeline

1911
Born in Charlotte, NC
1970
Received a John Solomon Guggenheim Foundation grant to write a book on the history of African-American art. The book, A History of African-American Artists: From 1792 to the Present, was coauthored with Harry Henderson and published posthumously in 1993
1972
Elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters
1973
Named Rockefeller Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
1975
Awarded Honorary Doctorate of Fine Art from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
1976
Received Gold Medal for Achievement in the Arts by the Governor of North Carolina
Proclaimed Honorary Citizen of Atlanta, Georgia
1977
Received Honorary Doctorate from North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC
Received Honorary Doctorate from Maryland Institute of Arts, Baltimore, MD
1978
Received Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Davidson College, Davidson, NC
Received thirteenth Annual Frederick Douglass Medal from the New York Chapter of the National Urban League, New York, NY
Received Freedom Fighter Award from the Atlanta Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
1980
Romare Bearden Day is proclaimed in Oakland, CA
1982
Received Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
1983
Received Award from The Studio Museum in Harlem along with Elizabeth Catlett and Jacob Lawrence
1984
Received the Mayor's Award of Honor for Art & Culture from New York City Mayor Edward Koch at Gracie Mansion
Bearden's lithograph, The Lamp (1984), is chosen for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund poster celebrating the 30th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education
1985
Received Honorary Doctorate in Literature from Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA
Honored by the New York Artists Equity Association for Lifetime of Artistic Achievement and Devotion to Fellow Artists’ Interests
1987
Presented with the National Medal of Arts by President Ronald Reagan
Romare Bearden Day is declared in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1988
Died: March 12th in New York, NY
Received posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award from The Studio Museum in Harlem
2000
Bearden's collage, Family (1988), becomes the national poster for the U.S. Census Bureau's 2000 Census
2004–2005
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City, issues a Proclamation in honor of Bearden’s legacy

Exhibitions

2007
Contemporary, Cool and Collected, Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC
2006
A Century of Collage, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR
2004–2005
traveling retrospective, Art of Romare Bearden the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1997
Projections: The Photomontages of Romare Bearden, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Phillip Morris, New York, NY
Projections: The Photomontages of Romare Bearden, Madison Art Center, Madison, WI
Projections: The Photomontages of Romare Bearden, Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC
1996
The Painted Sounds of Romare Bearden, Victoria Arts Center, Melbourne Australia
The Painted Sounds of Romare Bearden, Kiame Jazz Festival, Sidney, Australia
The Painted Sounds of Romare Bearden, Walker Hill Art, Center Seoul, Korea
The Painted Sounds of Romare Bearden, Tawain Museum Art, Taipei, Tawain
Winter Group Show, ACA Galleries, New York, NY
1995
The City: New York Visions 1900-1995, ACA Galleries, New York, NY
Bob Blackburn's Printmaking Workshop: Artist's of Color, Museum of History of Art ,Albany, NY
Voices of Conscience: Then and Now, ACA Galleries, New York, NY
Odysseus Suite, ACA Galleries, New York, NY
Romare Bearden: Collage and Watercolor, New Britian Museum of American Art, New Britian, CT
1994
Romare Bearden: Interludes: Sun, Sound and Sky, ACA GAlleries, New York, NY
Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Winter Group Exhibition, ACA Galleries, New York, NY
1993
Group Exhibition, ACA Galleries, New York, NY
1992
Group Exhibition, ACA Galleries, New York, NY
Paine Art Center, Oshkosh, WI
Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL
S. Carolina State Museum, Columbia, SC
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD
1989
Multiple Images: Prints by Afro-Americans, Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ
1981
24 Black American Artists, Goucher College, Baltimore, MD
The Human Form, Maryland Institute of Art, Baltimore, MD
1980
In Celebration: 6 Black Americans, New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ
1979
Reflections of a Southern Heritage, Gibbes Art Gallery, Charleston, SC
1978
Twelve Americans: Masters of Collage, Andrew Crispo Gallery, New York, NY