Born in Charlotte in 1912, Bearden spent his childhood and adolescence in New York City’s Harlem–at the time of the Harlem Renaissance–and in Pittsburgh, with summer visits to North Carolina relatives. Through his parents, he encountered Harlem’s leading civic and cultural figures, including the great musicians of the day. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1942-1945, Bearden studied philiophy at the Sorbonne in Paris under the GI Bill. In the 1960’s his involvement with the Spiral Group, formed by black artists active in the civil-rights movement, stimulated his interest in the pasted-paper techniques of of photomontage and collage.
Romare Bearden (September 2, 1911 – March 12, 1988) was an African-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 was the author or coauthor of several books, and was a songwriter who co-wrote the jazz classic "Sea Breeze", which was recorded by Billy Eckstine, a former high school classmate at Peabody High School, and Dizzy Gillespie. His lifelong support of young, emerging artists led him and his wife to create the Bearden Foundation to support young or emerging artists and scholars. In 1987, Bearden was awarded the National Medal of Arts. His work in collage led the New York Times to describe Bearden as “the nation's foremost collagist” in his 1988 obituary.