Romare Bearden, born September 2, 1911, was an African-American artist and writer who depicted African-American life. He worked with many types of media including cartoons, oils and collages. Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, educated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bearden moved to New York City after high school and went on to graduate from NYU in 1935. He began his artistic career creating scenes of the American South. Later, he endeavored to express the humanity he felt was lacking in the world after his experience in the US Army during World War II on the European front. He later returned to Paris in 1950 and studied Art History and Philosophy at the Sorbonne in 1950.
Bearden's early work focused on unity and cooperation within the African-American community. After a period during the 1950s when he painted more abstractly, this theme reemerged in his collage works of the 1960s, when Bearden became a founding member of the Harlem-based art group known as The Spiral, formed to discuss the responsibility of the African-American artist in the struggle for civil rights.
Bearden was the author or coauthor of several books, and was a songwriter who co-wrote the jazz classic "Sea Breeze", which was recorded by Billy Eckstine, a former high school classmate at Peabody High School, and Dizzy Gillespie. His lifelong support of young, emerging artists led him and his wife to create the Bearden Foundation to support young or emerging artists and scholars. In 1987, Bearden was awarded the National Medal of Arts. His work in collage led the New York Times to describe Bearden as "the nation's foremost collagist" in his 1988 obituary.
Romare Bearden passed on March 12, 1988.
Extraordinarily talented, Romare Bearden was and is still much beloved by African Americans, art lovers and by jazz musicians.
In June, 2003, Branford Marsalis, and few other jazz luminaries -- Harry Connick Jr., Wynton Marsalis, Doug Wamble, Reginald Veal, and other members of the Marsalis family-- recorded Bearden Revealed in celebration of a retrospective exhibit of the art of Romare Bearden which opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and subsequently traveled to San Francisco, Dallas, New York and Atlanta in 2004 and 2005.The album recorded jazz tunes whose names Bearden had used for paintings as well as original compositions.