Romare Bearden

Quick Look At Bearden

Romare Bearden was an African American self-taught painter, considered one of the most important and influential American artists of the 20th Century. His conscious paintings captured Black culture and the African American experience. He was described by the Chicago Tribune as the artist who refused to be white because he was so fair-skinned that he could pass as white and not need to deal with the discrimination that comes with being Black in America. Instead, Bearden chose to embrace his culture and make it known that he was Black, despite the fact that he may have spared himself so much if he didn't do that.

Early Life

Romare Bearden was born in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 2, 1911. He and his family moved to New York City when Bearden was a toddler and later moved to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. His mother, Bessye Bearden, was the President of the Negro Women's Democratic Association and their home was a frequent meeting place for Civil Rights leaders and Harlem Renaissance influencers like Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, and Duke Ellington. When Bearden graduated from high school, he returned to New York City to attend New York University, where he would study science and earn his bachelor's degree. He became an illustrator for his school's humor magazine. Bearden also studied at Columbia University before joining a Black artist group.


In 1942, Bearden was drafted into the military where he fought in World War II. After the war was over, he returned home and continued his career as an artist while also taking on the job of a social caseworker to support himself financially and fulfil his passions. Bearden's paintings which combined Cubism and modern art displayed themes of music, family, and Black culture/experience, which he captured through the texture, color, and linework of his art. From 1950 to 1952, Bearden studied art in Paris, where he met Pablo Picasso. After returning to the states, his art began gaining more attention and recognition and he became one of the most influential painters of the Harlem Renaissance era. He was also a songwriter and wrote songs for other Harlem Renaissance artists such as Billie Holiday and Dizzy Gillespie. Bearden continued with art and reached a point of success to where he was able to make art his full-time profession, opening up his own studio in the process. In 1988, he passed away from cancer. He and his wife had been planning to open an art foundation for teaching talented students. Though Bearden didn't live to see this pan out, the Romare Bearden opened in 1990 and has trained many students in the arts.

Bearden's influential art helped inspire many and help others experience what could not be explained. He was an extraordinary artist and his foundation has helped in the training of many art students, even today!