Romare Bearden VISUAL JAZZ
Romare Bearden • Meet Romare Bearden. He was 5 feet 11 inches tall and heavyset. His friends called him Romie. After graduating from college, he had a career as a social worker while becoming one of the preeminent artists in the United States from the mid 1960s until his death in 1988.
Having grown up in a house where Harlem Renaissance luminaries like poet Langston Hughes were regular visitors, it is no surprise that adult Bearden read all the time: poetry, philosophy, politics, works about myth, religion and art, and ancient literature. He also read contemporary writers and intellectuals, many of them personal friends, including Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Albert Murray.
I think the artist has to be something like a whale, swimming with his mouth wide open, absorbing everything until he has what he really needs. When he finds that, he can start to make limitations. And then he really begins to grow."
Collage • Bearden's signature technique was collage. Snippets from magazine photographs, painted papers, foil, posters, and art reproductions were among his materials. They were his "paints." Bearden's collages fractured space and form, leading one writer to describe them as "patchwork cubism."
Bearden loved his cats: Gypo, Tuttle (short for the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen), Rusty (named after the Persian Hercules Rustum), and Mikie (short for the Renaissance artist Michelangelo).
Jazz and the blues provided Bearden with many subjects. He grew up hearing rural blues and uptown jazz: Duke Ellington's orchestra, Earl Hines' piano, Ella Fitzgeralds scat singing.