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Romare Bearden



Bearden as Abstractionist



After a few more exhibitions of his works, Bearden began to become frustrated with how the critics during that time had not offered full interpretations of African-American artists and their place in American culture.  Furthermore, Bearden started to become more aware of the merchandising side of art, and his own struggles to produce art that he felt was honest, in this type of system (Schwartzman 120-121).

World War II had already started and Bearden enlisted in the U.S. Army in April of 1942.  He received his discharge from the army in May 1945.

Early in 1944, Bearden's works were exhibited in the G Place Gallery in Washington, D.C.  One work, Lovers,  included in the exhibit showed Bearden's emerging new style of abstractionist painting.  Lovers  was "a composition molding man and woman within a single outline with overtones of Picasso, surrounded by simple stars suggestive of Matisse," (Schwartzman 127).  Bearden had began using flat, geometric designs and cubism in his paintings, and the Lovers  composition was the first evidence of his new approach.

Theme-wise, Bearden became very interested in "those universals that must be digested by the mind and cannot be merely seen by the eye," (Campbell and Patton 30).  The subjects Bearden used in his paintings ranged from ancient and contemporary literature--such as Homer's "Iliad" and Federico Garcia Lorca's poem "Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias" which inspired his painting What a Great Torrero in the Ring --to the Bible as seen in He Walks on the Water  and Christ's Entry into Jerusalem  from his "Passion of Christ" exhibition (30).

Bearden continued to study master artists--Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Pieter DeHooch, to name a few--especially for their use of color and how it affected the perception of space.  Bearden "was interested in how placement of one color next to another affected value and tonality" and how whites and grays could "restrain spatial recession or centrifugal movement," (Campbell and Patton 31).

In 1948, the Kootz Gallery, which Bearden's exhibitions had been a part of since he returned from the army, had closed.  Also, modernism had become passť and Bearden was no longer included in Kootz's lineup once the gallery reopened.        


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