Romare Bearden (September 2, 1911 – March 12, 1988) was an Afro-American artist. He worked with many types of media including cartoons, oils and collages. Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, educated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bearden moved to New York City after high school and went on to graduate from NYU in 1935. He began his artistic career creating scenes of the American South. Later, he endeavored to express the humanity he felt was lacking in the world after his experience in the US Army during World War II on the European front. He later returned to Paris in 1950 and studied Art History and Philosophy at the Sorbonne in 1950.
Bearden’s early work focused on unity and cooperation within the African-American community. After a period during the 1950s when he painted more abstractly, this theme reemerged in his collage works of the 1960s, when Bearden became a founding member of the Harlem-based art group known as The Spiral, formed to discuss the responsibility of the African-American artist in the struggle for civil rights.
Bearden seamlessly blended images of African-American life in the urban and rural South with references to popular culture, religion, and Classical art and myth. He depicted jazz musicians, monumental subjects, nudes, or mythological characters set against abstract, fragmented backgrounds. Each of his collages integrated images painted in gouache, watercolors, oil paints, which he would then fix to paper or canvas. Bearden sought to give the African-American experience a universal, monumental, and Classical representation: he would often recast Classical events with African-American subjects, as in The Return of Odysseus (Homage to Pintoricchio and Benin) (1977). By rendering Odysseus, Penelope, and Telemachus as African-Americans, Bearden drew the political injustices of his time into a universal, allegorical context.