Masterful American Artist, Romare Bearden of Charlotte

Bearden’s New Orleans: Ragging Home (1974). Image from then N.C. Museum of Art.

On September 2, 1911, Romare Bearden, one of the 20th century’s most important African-American artists, was born in Charlotte

Bearden studied at the Art Students League in New York City, Columbia University and the Sorbonne. For 30 years, he worked on his art at night and on weekends while employed as a social worker in New York City.

Bearden’s first solo exhibition was in Harlem in 1940. His collages, watercolors, oils, photomontages and prints depict black culture in a style derived from Cubism. Bearden also was a songwriter and book illustrator, and designed sets for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company.

An advocate for young emerging artists, Bearden had close associations with distinguished artists, intellectuals and musicians including James Baldwin, Stuart Davis, Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Joan Miró, George Grosz, Alvin Ailey and Jacob Lawrence.

Although his family moved north when he was only four years old, he said of his home state,

Most artists take some place, and like a flower, they sink roots, looking for universal implications. . . . My roots are in North Carolina.

Indeed, many of his paintings and collages were drawn from memories of his time in North Carolina.

Throughout his career he received a host of honors, including the Mayor’s Award of Honor for Art and Culture in New York City in 1984 and the National Medal of Arts in 1987.

Bearden died in New York City in 1988.

Visit: The N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh, Mint Museum in Charlotte and N.C. Central University Art Museum in Durham all have works by Bearden in their collections.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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