Romare Bearden at 100

Gallery: Selections from the Nasher Museum of Art

Born in Charlotte in 1911, Romare Bearden moved with his family in 1914 to Harlem, where he spent much of his adult life. He studied at the Art Students League of New York under George Grosz in the 1930s, and for much of the next three decades, he worked full time at the New York Department of Social Services, leaving only nights and weekends to paint. In 1963, he helped found the Spiral Group, a collective of New York-based artists, including Felrath Hines, Hale Woodruff, Norman Lewis, and Charles Alston, which explored the role of the African-American artist in the civil rights struggle.

Above: "The Family," 1948. Romare Bearden, American. Watercolor and gouache on paper, 26 x 20 inches, Museum Purchase, 1998.12.1. [Credit: Peter paul Geoffrion]

This painting from the Nasher Museum’s collection shows a family of three, the father holding an infant while the mother looks on. Such depictions of family recur in Bearden’s works, underscoring his interest in community, biblical imagery, and the universality of human experience. Painted in the visual language of Cubism, with the figures’ faces and bodies shown in multiple perspectives, the work also has elements of abstraction, a movement that gained prominence in the U.S. in the 1930s and ’40s. Black lines intersect and break up the composition, creating blocks of color comparable to those in Bearden’s later collages and mosaics.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Bearden’s birth, the Nasher Museum is taking part in a project organized by the Bearden Foundation titled “Romare Bear- den: 20th Century American Master.” The Nasher’s installation, on view through June 3, will include works such as The Family alongside the work of other American artists of Bearden’s generation from the museum’s permanent collection and on loanfromlocalprivatecollections.

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