Features Issue 6 Magazine

The Life of Romare Bearden

By Sofia Mantua

Graphic By Alma Snortum-Phelps

Romare Bearden was an artist, songwriter, athlete and composer, and received many awards and honors for his art. He was born on September 2, 1911, in North Carolina. Throughout his life, he created many art pieces while not only changing people’s views on art but also inspiring and encouraging many young artists. 

Romare’s real passion for art began while attending New York University, where he started taking extensive classes on the subject. After graduating with a degree in education, he knew art would play a big role in his life. From 1935 to 1937, Bearden worked for the Baltimore Afro-American as a weekly editorial cartoonist. After he joined the Harlem Artists Guild, he began his research on different types of art and inspirations. He had a fascination for African art specifically and spent a great deal of time studying the sculptures, masks, and textiles. Before art became his full-time career, he worked as a social worker in New York from the mid-1930s until the 1960s. 

Even though his career was put on pause when he met Nanette Rohan, who he later married in 1954, his fame continued to grow through his work. He continued to make all different types of art, working in various mediums, including collages, oils, watercolor, photomontages and prints. Out of which, he was best known for his textured collages. A few of Romare’s collage pieces were featured on the covers of Fortune and Time magazines in 1968. Later that year, he also helped design costumes and sets for multiple different theatres. 

Bearden was known for his many talents and later became a well-known writer with many publications. He used this to his advantage and also became a spokesman on artistic and social issues. In 1964, the Harlem Cultural Council appointed him as their first art director. Later, Bearden became one of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters’ founding members in 1970. 

At the age of 76, Bearden died on March 12, 1988. His legacy continued after his death through the people he inspired and the imprint he left on art culture. His work still gains recognition to this day, and Las Lomas included him and his foundation as a part of their Black History month events. Romare Bearden was a man with a broad range of talents and utilized them in order to inspire the many people around him.

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