Romare Bearden: Celebrating One Hundred Years

Romare Bearden, Tidings, collage of various papers and mixed media, circa 1973. Estimate: $30,000 to $50,000.

Romare Bearden is undoubtedly one of America’s greatest artists. Today, his collages are viewed as some of the most unique and significant contributions to 20th century American art. Born during the Harlem Renaissance and matured during the Civil Rights struggle, his aesthetic is considered to be one of the defining cultural signifiers in the African-American experience. Bearden’s art displays a wide-ranging and deep intellectual curiosity, built upon his encyclopedic knowledge of art history—his influences range from Renaissance frescoes to Afro-Caribbean folklore. This cross-cultural appreciation gives his work tremendous resonance.

Born on September 2, 1911, Romare Bearden’s centennial will be celebrated throughout 2011. Bearden was greatly honored both during his lifetime and posthumously, with numerous prestigious awards, publications and exhibitions, including three major retrospectives. While there will be many other celebrations this year, including a retrospective at the Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC, and a forthcoming book by Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, the section in the February 17th African-American Fine Art auction is Swann’s tribute to his centennial year.

The sale features some important and scarce examples of Romare Bearden’s work in collage, photomontage, watercolor, monotype and printmaking. Bearden pushed the boundaries of each medium he chose, finding an inherent quality that was well suited to his subjects—from the heady improvisation of the jazz monotypes to the deep color saturation of the Obeah watercolors. We are only beginning to fully appreciate that creativity and foresight today.

Romare Bearden, The Family, color etching and aquatint, 1975. Estimate: $8,000 to $12,000.