Artist, writer, musician and social activist Romare Bearden was born in 1912 in Charlotte, N.C., to a railway worker and a politically active editor. He attended Boston University and New York University, graduating with a degree in science and education. From 1936 – 37, Bearden studied under German expatriate George Grosz at the Art Students' League. Following a wartime stint with the U.S. Army, he had a socialist-realist painting accepted into the biennial exhibit at the Whitney Museum. Encouraged, he sailed for France, where he studied philosophy at the Sorbonne and continued developing his style. In the 1950s, he began pursuing music, and though he continued to paint, he did not exhibit during this time. He married Nanette Rohan, and together they started the Bearden Foundation to assist young artists.

Bearden emerged as a major artist in the 1960s, at the height of the civil rights struggle. His "photomontage projections" -- made up of images snipped from newspapers and magazines, then enlarged photographically -- perfectly captured the tension, alienation and dislocation of contemporary black life. He used art-making processes we most likely would dismiss as primitive -- paste-up, photographic copying and enlargement -- to bring about results that, in their balance, spatial dynamism and internal rhythms have seldom been surpassed.

Bearden died in New York City in 1988.

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