You Need To See These Unbelievable Portraits Of Black Life

Romare Bearden Mosaic / Punk Toad /(Flickr)/ CC BY-SA 2.0


Romare Bearden was an innovative artist whose work is known in elite art circles worldwide. Though perhaps not a household name, his contributions pioneered the art of collage - integrating various textures, patterns, and colors to narrate a story of human depth. He fused his Harlem childhood with images of the American south, meshing magazine clippings with mixed media to bring emotion to life.

Though born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bearden was raised in New York City by an activist mother who was founder and president of the Colored Women’s Democratic League. Bearden’s mother was also a correspondent for The Chicago Defender, one of the leading Black publications at the time.

His childhood bustled with activity, with the home doubling as a meeting place for prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance. These political and social influences would reveal themselves through Bearden’s work, which he honed at various institutions including Lincoln University, New York University, the Arts Students League, and the University of Paris.

A man of many talents, Bearden also served in World War II, and was eyed by scouts while playing college baseball. A lyricist, arts activist, and jazz aficionado, Bearden celebrated all that was culturally Black - and used Black history, Black figures, Black expressions, and Black experiences to influence the colors, shapes, and scenes he depicted through art.

He’d supplement his income working for social services and as a cartoonist for Black publications including the Baltimore Afro-American.

Later in life, Bearden would receive over six honorary degrees.

The following list features ten of Bearden’s iconic pieces. Can you identify the melded scenes? What political message do you think he sought to convey?

See for yourself below.


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