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Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988)
LOT ID: 78470
Mother and Child (from Conspiracy: The Artist as Witness), 1971

24 х 18 in. (60.96 x 45.72 cm.)
Signed, and numbered in graphite lower left edge by Romare Bearden recto (front)
bears publishers distinctive blindstamp lower right (shown)
bears artists copyright stamp verso (back)
Print/Casting Year 1971
Edition 150
Foundry/Publisher Published by: The Center for Constitutional Rights, David Godine, 1972, Printed by: Shorewood Bank Street Atelier, New York
Lot description
"Mother and Child", a seven-color lithograph proofed by hand and pulled by machine from one stone and six zinc plates on Arches paper is one of Romare Bearden's most coveted prints - works that scholars have described as "unique in their complexity". Indeed the theme of mother and child was of considerable importance to Bearden, recurring throughout his career. An edition of this print was featured in the major 1995 traveling museum retrospective entitled "A Graphic Odyssey: Romare Bearden as Printmaker" hosted by the Brooklyn Museum. The curators wrote: "Mother and Child..possesses a dimension of Christian spirituality deriving from the iconic subject. Bearden’s artistic heritage may have been Western, but his historical and personal perspectives were defined by the African-American experience."

Romare Bearden was an African-American artist who worked with various media including oil, prints, and collage. His family moved from North Carolina to New York City when he was a toddler, and their household soon became a meeting place for major figures of the Harlem Renaissance such as Charles Alston, W.E.B. Dubois, Duke Ellington, and Langston Hughes. He graduated from New York University in 1935. He studied with George Grosz at the Art Students League in 1936 and 1937, discovering the political power of art through the historic influence of such artists as Honoré Daumier and Francisco Goya. By the 1940s he had become close friends with Stuart Davis, who shared Bearden’s love of jazz. In 1950, he would study philosophy at the Sorbonne where he met the artists Constantin Brancusi and Georges Braque, and the author James Baldwin. Bearden's work reveals his wide range of inspiration from the murals of Diego Rivera to Matisse to Japanese prints. His work were exhibited at the legendary Samuel M. Kootz gallery until it was deemed not abstract enough. After helping to found an artists group in support of civil rights, Bearden's work became more representational and more overtly socially conscious, reflecting the spirit and conscience of African-Americans during this crucial era in American history. It was during that era - considered the most desirable in terms of Bearden's oeuvre, that he created this iconic print "Mother and Child", for The Center for Constitutional Rights.

This stunning work was created for the legendary portfolio "CONSPIRACY: the Artist as Witness", to raise money for the legal defense of the Chicago 7, a group of anti-Vietnam War activists indicted by President Nixon's Attorney General John Mitchell for conspiring to riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. (1968 was also the year Bobby Kennedy was killed and American casualties in Vietnam exceeded 30,000.) The eight demonstrators included Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale. (The eighth activist, Bobby Seale, was severed from the case and sentenced to four years for contempt after being handcuffed, shackled to a chair and gagged.) Although Abbie Hoffman would later joke that these radicals couldn't even agree on lunch, the jury convicted them of conspiracy, with one juror proclaiming the demonstrators "should have been shot down by the police." All of the convictions were ultimately overturned by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Mother and Child" has impeccable provenance: it comes directly from the original Portfolio: "Conspiracy The Artist as Witness" # 23/150, which featured works by Jack Beal, Romare Bearden Leon Golub-Nancy Spero, Sol Lewitt, Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, Larry Poons, Bridget Riley, Peter Saul, Raphael Soyer and Frank Stella. It was housed in an elegant cloth case, accompanied by a colophon page.

This is the first time since 1971 that this important lithograph has been removed from the original portfolio case for sale. It is in fine condition, a superb, bright impression.

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Mother and Child from CONSPIRACY: The Artist as Witness by Romare Bearden
  • Mother and Child from CONSPIRACY: The Artist as Witness by Romare Bearden
  • Mother and Child from CONSPIRACY: The Artist as Witness by Romare Bearden
  • Mother and Child from CONSPIRACY: The Artist as Witness by Romare Bearden
  • Mother and Child from CONSPIRACY: The Artist as Witness by Romare Bearden
  • Mother and Child from CONSPIRACY: The Artist as Witness by Romare Bearden
  • Mother and Child from CONSPIRACY: The Artist as Witness by Romare Bearden
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