Romare Bearden is known for his social depictions of life and customs of 20th century rural Black America. He was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1911. He attended Lincoln University, Boston University and completed his studies at New York University. At NYU, Bearden studied art and worked as lead cartoonist and later as art editor for the monthly journal The Medley. He also studied at the Art Students League in New York under George Grosz and then at the Sorbonne in Paris to study the modernists.
Bearden worked as a caseworker for the New York City Department of Social Services from the late 1930s to around 1967. This gave him glimpses of the struggles of people and an awareness that the rural southern African-American culture was disappearing. Documenting this became a subject matter Romare Bearden would become known for throughout his career. He once wrote, “It is not my aim to paint about the Negro in terms of propaganda . . . [but] the life of my people as I know it, passionately and dispassionately as Brueghel. My intention is to reveal through pictorial complexity the life I know.”
Best known for his vibrant collages, Romare Bearden also created paintings, prints and photographs. Many of his human subjects are portrayed as monumental or iconic regardless of social standing. Bearden would also become known for promoting opportunities for black artists. He has served on the Harlem Cultural Council as art director. Today his works are highly prized by both public and private collectors.