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Romare Bearden became one of the most important and respected of the 20th Century though, amazingly, he was largely self-taught. Bearden was born September 2, 1911 in Charlotte, N.C. and raised primarily between New York City and Pittsburgh, Pa.

After leaving high school in Pittsburgh, Bearden returned to New York, bouncing around colleges before landing at NYU to complete his studies. While at NYU, Bearden began to hone more of the cartooning skills he learned along the way. After graduating, he became a cartoonist for the “Baltimore Afro-American” paper.

Bearden’s early work depicted scenes of Black urban and rural living, although took pains to not categorize his work as strictly Black art. After serving briefly in the U.S. Army during World War II in Europe, Bearden began to study other forms of art while traveling and studying abroad. His travels to Europe had him crossing paths with the likes of Pablo Picasso and other artists, no doubt influencing his later work.

The abstract style of Cubism was reflected in Bearden’s work and as much as he was an adept painter, he also developed his skills as a collagist. That work has remained the hallmark of Bearden’s artistic career. Beyond art, Bearden was also an author and songwriter, co-penning the Jazz classic “Sea Breeze” as performed by Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie, among others.

A major part of Bearden’s life was giving back to up and coming artists, and he and his wife established the Bearden Foundation for this purpose. Many of Bearden’s works are part of major art exhibitions in museums and galleries all around the world.

PHOTO: Public Domain