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Romare Bearden – American Artist – Part 1

Romare Bearden american artist

The last free art lesson we shared here was the painter Claude Monet. You can start here to watch that series: Claude Monet – French Impressionist Painter.

In this lesson we take you through the exciting life of Romare Bearden, the famous people he met – and how he started creating his collages. Barbara will show you how to plan and begin to make your own collage using pictures from catalogs and magazines.

Romare Bearden Curriculum

American Artist Romare Bearden’s Life and Passion for Collage and Cubism Video

Discover artist Romare Bearden and how he was influenced by Picasso and Matisse, and learn the first steps to creating your own collage.

Materials Needed for Romare Bearden Art Lesson

  • Old catalogs or magazines
  • Construction paper
  • Glue
  • Pencil, markers and/or paints

Scroll to the bottom and view some of Romare Bearden’s artwork.

Create a Collage While Learning about American Artist Romare Bearden

Read along using the video transcript below as you discover the history and art of Romare Bearden.

Hi there, this is Barbara Mason and welcome back to Golden Road Arts.

Today we’re going to talk about a really famous American artist named Romare Bearden. Now Romare Bearden was a black artist, and he was born in 1911. So how many years ago do you think that was? Well, this is 2021, so 1911 would be 110 years ago. So really a long time ago. He lived until he was in his 70s and he died in 1988 in New York City and when he was a little boy, maybe about four, his family moved from North Carolina to New York.

And it was a big move for him because they moved from a very sort of rural place to a huge city. And this was a time of a lot of civil unrest in the United States. Well, I think we’ve always had civil unrest. It’s doesn’t seem to be going away. But this was a time when many, many people left the South and they moved north to New York. And really a lot of people did – hundreds of thousands of people moved north over a period of maybe, maybe from about 1910 to about 1930. There were just many, many people who moved north. And probably 300,000, if you know, counted them one by one.

So, it was a lot of people who moved to New York City, and they moved to an area called Harlem. So, Harlem was a very exciting place to be living in that time because there were. It was. It would be sort of a cultural Mecca, so Mecca is a place where everybody wants to go. It’s just a place that is a great source of inspiration for all these people, and they were all looking for a better life. And they thought they could find it in New York City and in Harlem. So, this is where Romeo Bearden grew up and his mother was very involved in politics, and she was very involved in the Harlem Renaissance. She wrote a lot of a lot of articles for a black newspaper, and she was politically involved. She started the Democrats for Negroes in Harlem and so they had a lot of really, really interesting people that came through their house when he was growing up. Famous people, even Eleanor Roosevelt, was at their house sometime. Now Eleanor Roosevelt was the wife of the president of the United States, but I don’t know if he was president when she came to visit Bearden’s house, but it must have been pretty exciting for little kids to have all these. Of course, he maybe didn’t know they were famous at the time. You know they were just people that came to visit, but his mother was – nowadays, you’d call her an activist, but at the time she was just somebody that was really interested and excited about what was going on around her and she loved having people over and a lot of people came to their house, so it must have been a lot of fun to grow up there.

He went to high school – He started high school in New York and then he moved to Pittsburgh to live with his grandmother. And so, he went to high school in Pittsburgh. And graduated from there and then when he when he got out of high school he went to a college and that was one of the first negro colleges in the United States. I think it was called Lincoln University and he started there and then he transferred to Boston College.

So, it was hard for him not to go back to New York. Of course, his family was there and there was just a lot of exciting things happening, so, he went to Boston University, and he also went to New York University. He got his degree from New York University, and he decided he was going to be a doctor. So, it’s hard to think of somebody who became a famous artist starting out as being a doctor, but he graduated with a degree of science. He was always interested in art. He took a lot of art classes and when he was in college, he actually started doing cartooning and he did a lot of cartooning for the college paper and the college magazine. He actually did even after he got out of school for several years – he did weekly cartoons in the papers and so, drawing was a big part of his life and took a lot of art classes.

So, we’re going to talk a little bit about his art. I have some pictures I want to show you. Romare started out as a painter and then he went to collage. So, I’ve got a picture here of what he looked like that I can show you. This is a good one. This is the picture that I was looking for. So, this picture of Romare Bearden was taken in 1983, so in 1983 he would have been 72 and you can see he’s got on his artist hat. For some reason a lot of artists wear what’s called a beret – an artist’s beret. And he might have started wearing a beret – one of the schools that he went to after he graduated from the University is he went to Paris, and he met some very famous artists. He met Picasso and he met Matisse and he got real interested in what they call Cubism. So, Cubism is where you kind of take things and you break them down into sections. So, like you, you would take an orange and you would break it down into the sections of the way the light hits at the color, and each section would become a cube or a square. And so, he got very involved in doing that kind of work, and some of his first paintings – he was really influenced by Picasso and by Cubism.

So, one of the things that he did when he started work – you always want to know what made an artist work the way he did? So, we think that you just pick up a brush and you start painting. But most artists don’t do that. Most artists think about what they want to do, and they plan it out a little bit. Now you can see from this picture right here that Romare Bearden planned his drawings. He planned his collages, and he had an idea of what he was going to make that he did at the very beginning – before he started to do them, and this is a really famous painting. One of his – I called it a painting, but it’s kind of a combination of paint and collage – and this is called The Town –or The Block, actually. He did this in 1971, so let’s see how old would he have been? He would have been 60 in 1971 and so he was a pretty well-established artist by then and this is a very, very famous piece of his work.

This piece lives in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and it’s really, really big. It’s 216 inches this way and it’s 48 inches this way, which is 4 feet. So, it’s, you know, pretty good size and these are really, really interesting painting and collage that he’s worked together. And so, he’s got paper and paint, pastels, just all kinds of stuff in this collage. But this is a very famous piece, and we’re lucky that we can actually have a good picture of it, because when I looked online to see if I could pull it up online, there was a big disclaimer on the bottom of it. A disclaimer is something that tells you that you can’t do something, and so what the disclaimer said was we cannot show you this any bigger and we cannot show you a full screen image of it because everything is copywritten. So, that meant that you can look at it, but you can’t get it very big, and you can’t reproduce it, but somehow, they were able to reproduce it pretty good size in this book. And so, we’ll take a picture of this, and we’ll put it online so you can look at it. The one from the Metropolitan Museum is very small when you look at it, so you can’t really see it very well.

So, we’re going to use some elements of this in the collage that we do today, and I want to show you another picture of a collage that Bearden did. This is one where there’s a lot of people involved in this. Now, one of the things that he started out doing, was he started out doing a lot of drawings and paintings that showed what it was like in the South. He made many trips with his family back to North Carolina when he was young because he still had a lot of family and people that they knew there. And so, he understood that it was difficult for black people – what it was like there and how hard it was for them to leave their home and move to New York City and – you know – start their lives over again. And so, he showed a lot of black issues in his work, and he was able to cut these pieces out, probably mostly from Life magazine. There was a lot of – Life was a magazine that showed pictures of everything happening in the country, all over the country – and it was popular for probably 50 years. A long time in the United States. Unfortunately, they don’t publish it anymore, so you can’t go to your local store and buy a Life magazine and cut out the pictures. So, one of the best things that we have for cutting out pictures is we have catalogs. So, I have some catalog pages here that we’re going to use, and these came from magazines that people send for different things. They’re trying to sell you clothes and bathing suits and shirts, and so the catalogs usually are free. They don’t usually charge you for them. And we can just tear them up and use them for collage.

So, the first thing that we want to do in making our collages, we want to talk about “How we would do it?” So, we’re going to kind of plan it a little bit. And so, I don’t know where you will be looking at this video, but I live in Hillsboro Oregon. Now, Hillsboro, Oregon is kind of between Portland, Oregon and the Oregon coast, and we have a great view when we drive over the hill, and we come into Portland. We have a great view of Mount Hood and so I’m going to do Mount Hood as I plan that out as my drawing that I’m going to do.

Discover More Artists Through Our Free Online Art Lessons

Be sure to look for Part 2 of Barbara’s lesson about Romare Bearden and complete your own collage at home.

Help us continue to provide these free online art lessons by making a donation or purchasing from our online art gallery. Golden Road Arts is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.





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