A Finding Aid to the Romare Bearden Papers,
1937-1982
, in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.bearroma
Creators:
Bearden, Romare, 1911-1988
Dates:
1937-1982
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
2 linear feet
Repository:
The papers of Romare Bearden measure two linear feet and date from 1937 to 1982. The collection includes biographical information, correspondence, writings by and about Bearden, miscellaneous legal and financial material, photographs, drawings, and printed material. Found are numerous letters referring to African-American arts movements of the 1960s and 1970s, including exhibitions, publications, associations, and scattered letters of a more personal nature.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of Romare Bearden measure two linear feet and date from 1937 to 1982. The collection includes biographical information, correspondence, writings by and about Bearden, miscellaneous legal and financial material, photographs, drawings, and printed material.
Correspondence is with family, friends, artists, galleries, museums, publishers, universities, arts associations, and colleagues, primarily concerning gallery space, exhibitions, sales of artwork, publishing, and arts events. Also found are numerous letters referring to African-American art movements of the 1960s and 1970s, including exhibitions, publications, associations, and scattered letters of a more personal nature. Many of the letters are illustrated with Bearden's doodlings and drawings. Although most of the letters are from galleries, museums, publishers, and arts associations, scattered letters from Charles Alston, Jacob Lawrence, Ad Reinhardt, Carl Holty, and Sam Middleton are found. In addition, there are letters from the Black Academy of Arts and Letters, and letters concerning its founding.
Writings by Bearden include lectures, speeches, talks, essays, and prose. Many are handwritten, annotated, and edited in Bearden's hand and several are illustrated with Bearden's doodlings and sketches. Included are a memorial delivered upon artist Carl Holty's death, a tribute to Zell Ingram, autobiographical essays, essays on art, and African-American art, artists, and cultural life. Also found are several handwritten examples of Bearden's prose and poetry. There are also writings by others and one folder of fragments and notes assumed to be by Bearden.
The collection houses two folders of photographs and snapshots of Bearden, family members, other unidentified artists or friends, classes and/or lectures, and works of art. Also found are several undated ink drawings, sketches in pencil and ink, and a hand-drawn and colored map with overlay of Paris. Printed material includes examples of Bearden's commissioned artwork for publications, press releases, exhibition catalogs and announcements, invitations, newspaper and magazine clippings, and miscellaneous printed materials. Although much of the printed material concerns Bearden's work, a fair portion concerns African-American art, artists, and cultural movements.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into seven series based on type of materials. Documents within each of the seven series have been arranged in chronological order, except for the writings which have been further subdivided by creator and are undated. Printed materials have been arranged primarily according to form of material and are in rough chronological order.
Series 1: Biographical, 1977, undated (Box 1; 1 folder)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1944-1981, undated (Box 1-2; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings By and About Bearden, circa 1950s-1980s (Box 3; 6 folders)
Series 4: Legal and Financial Material, 1970-1977 (Box 3; 3 folders)
Series 5: Photographs, undated (Box 3; 2 folders)
Series 6: Drawings, undated (Box 3, OV 6; 4 folders)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1937-1982 (Box 3-5; 1 linear foot)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, in 1914, Bearden's family relocated to New York City when Bearden was a toddler. Living in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, Bearden was exposed to such luminaries as writer Langston Hughes, painter Aaron Douglas, and musician Duke Ellington. While attending New York University, Bearden became interested in cartooning and became the art editor of the NYU Medley in his senior year. He received his B.S. in mathematics in 1935, initially planning to pursue medical school. Realizing that he had little interest in the other sciences however, Bearden began attending classes at the Art Students League in the evenings, studying under George Grosz.
In the mid-1930s Bearden published numerous political cartoons in journals and newspapers, including the Afro-American, but by the end of the decade, he shifted his emphasis to painting. Bearden's first paintings, on large sheets of brown paper, recalled his early memories of the South. After serving in the Army, Bearden began exhibiting more frequently, particularly in Washington, D.C. at the G Street Gallery and in New York with Samuel Kootz.
During a career lasting almost half a century, Bearden produced approximately two thousand works. Although best known for the collages of urban and southern scenes that he first experimented with in the mid-1960s, Bearden also completed paintings, drawings, monotypes, edition prints, public murals, record album jackets, magazine and book illustrations, and costume and set designs for theater and ballet. His work focused on religious subjects, African-American culture, jazz clubs and brothels, and history and literature. Not confining his abilities to the visual arts, Bearden also devoted attention to writing and song writing. Several of his collaborations were published as sheet music, among the most famous of which is "Seabreeze," recorded by Billy Eckstine. In addition, Bearden coauthored three full-length books: The Painter's Mind: A Study of the Relations of Structure and Space in Painting (1969) with painter Carl Holty; Six Black Masters of American Art (1972); and A History of African-American Artists: From 1792 to the Present (posthumously, 1993), the latter two with journalist Harry Henderson.
Bearden was also active in the African-American arts movement of the period, serving as art director of the Harlem Cultural Council, a founding member of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters, and organizer of exhibitions, such as the Metropolitan Museum's "Harlem on My Mind" (1968). Romare Bearden died in 1988.

Administration
Separated Materials
In 1968 Romare Bearden loaned a scrapbook, photographs, catalogs, clippings, and writings for microfilming on reels N/68-87. These materials are not described in this finding aid.
Existence and Location of Copies
The papers of Romare Bearden in the Archives of American Art were digitized in
2005
, and total
2217
images.
Processing Information
All accessions were merged and fully processed, arranged, and described in 2003 by Barbara Aikens. A portion of an earlier loan that was microfilmed on reel N/68-87 was merged and processed with the later accessions.
Author
Barbara Aikens
Sponsor
Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Romare Bearden donated his papers in several increments between 1977 and 1983. In 1968, Bearden also loaned letters, a scrapbook, photographs, printed materials, and writings that were microfilmed and returned to Bearden. He later donated some of this same material to AAA.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
The bulk of the collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website. Use of material not digitized requires an appointment.
Conditions Governing Use
The Romare Bearden papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Preferred Citation
Romare Bearden papers, 1937-1982. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
Within the Archives holdings are two oral history interviews with Romare Bearden. One was conducted in 1968 by Henri Ghent and another in 1980 by Avis Berman. Both have been transcribed and the 1968 interview transcript is available on the Archives website and on microfilm.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Drawings Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
African American artists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Works of art Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
African American painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Exhibition catalogs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Maps -- Paris (France) Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painting Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Alston, Charles Henry, 1907-1977 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lawrence, Jacob, 1917-2000 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Middleton, Samuel M., 1927- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Holty, Carl, 1900-1973 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/