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Romare Bearden: Collage of Memories

Romare Bearden: Collage of Memories

by Jan Greenberg, Romare Bearden (Illustrator)
The ONLY picture-book biography of the great African American artist
For the first time, children have their own book where they can discover the life and work of Romare Bearden, one of the most important American artists of the 20th century. Award-winning author Jan Greenberg tells the intriguing story of the collagist who made “visual jazz.”


The ONLY picture-book biography of the great African American artist
For the first time, children have their own book where they can discover the life and work of Romare Bearden, one of the most important American artists of the 20th century. Award-winning author Jan Greenberg tells the intriguing story of the collagist who made “visual jazz.” This lavishly illustrated picture-book biography, in the tradition of Abrams' The Yellow House and Degas and the Dance, reveals how Bearden blended fabric, photographs, colored papers, and many other materials to expand the possibilities of collage and capture the spirit of the artistic experience. Quilting bees, cotton pickers, revival meetings, city streets, jazz musicians—all are celebrated in these kinetic, visionary collages. Bearden's art, though rooted in African American culture, speaks to everyone as an affirmation of life and humanity.

Author Bio: Jan Greenberg, coauthor of Runaway Girl: The Artist Louise Bourgeois, has introduced young readers to a number of important 20th-century artists in her books. She is also the author of Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art, named a Michael L. Printz Honor Book by the American Library Association. Greenberg lives in St. Louis.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Richly informative and visually dazzling to the eyes, the book is an ideal introduction to the life and work of one of America's most accomplished artists. — Jabari Asim
Publishers Weekly
From the first spread, Greenberg (without frequent collaborator Sandra Jordan) draws readers into a dynamic portrait of African-American painter and collage artist Romare Bearden. "Painted paper scissored into shapes. Scraps of fabric. Hands cut from a photograph," the book begins; in a kind of textual collage, blocks of words appear on bold patches of solid color that echo the checkered floor in the artist's Early Carolina Morning, 1978, featured on the spread. The often poetic narrative reinforces the inviting artwork: "Step inside Bearden's world, where jazz, rhythm, and blues meet a kaleidoscope of shimmering, shimmying colors." Greenberg discusses the importance of Bearden's North Carolina childhood to his later work (emphasized by compositions such as Dinner Before the Revival Meeting, 1978), and intersperses photographs that demonstrate how young Romie's light skin posed challenges in a segregated South. A brilliantly designed spread for The Street, 1964, shows off the myriad tones between black and white in an homage to his beloved Harlem. Bearden's mother, a renowned Harlem newspaper editor and activist, introduced him to the likes of Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington, and his brush with Harlem Renaissance royalty shows up in paintings such as Show Time, 1974. Some of the gems come off as almost parenthetical: a childhood friend who influenced his artistic approach (eulogized in Farewell Eugene, 1978) and a brief flirtation with abstract expressionism (e.g., Mountains of the Moon, 1956). This intelligent volume provides a way into the artwork for youngest readers (and includes enough engrossing details to keep their interest) and new and interesting nuggets for more experienced art lovers and fans of African-American history and culture. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In this handsome, oversized book, kids and adults, too, can learn about the life and work of one of the great African-American artists of the twentieth century. Romare Bearden created scenes from his childhood often using painted paper, scraps of fabric and other materials to create large collages. There is a fabulous photograph of Romare and his family, and unlike the hero of his book Li'l Dan, Romare grew up in a life of privilege and was able to satisfy his natural curiosity through books and the people around him. Many of these memories he turned into art, and the reproductions fill the pages of Greenberg's book. Life in the South was not as free as his family liked so they, like many African-Americans, migrated north and ended up in Harlem. But Romare moved back and forth from the big city to the county as he visited relatives in Charlotte and Lutherville. The kindness of Romare and his family comes out in their rescue of a frail young lad named Eugene who lived in a seedy boarding house. Farwell Eugene is a collage commemorating their friendship and Eugene's death. Kids will learn that Romare was talented and good at most everything he tried—sports, school and art, and his career as a social worker and song writer, but it was art that he loved. When he married Nanette Rohan she convinced him to return to art. He developed his own unique style of photomontages and created a new series entitled Projections. Now he had found his style. Greenberg also points out how important jazz was to Romare and how it influenced his art (and interestingly, with the Marsalis Quintet CD, how it has come full circle with his art now serving as the basis for jazz numbers). It is hearteningto learn how he was finally recognized as a great artist and also how he spent much of his time encouraging younger African American artists. "He helped fund the Cinque Gallery in New York City to showcase their work." The book concludes with a look at the works created while he lived in St. Martin; again a whole new look to his work. The closing pages provide readers with a look at Romare at work in his studio, an Author's Note, a timeline, a bibliography, a text note, a glossary and a list of places where one can view his artwork. For the casual reader, the story of Romare Bearden will be a delight and for African-American kids, it offers another wonderful and perhaps unknown role model. For any serious art student this book is a must. 2003, Abrams, Ages 8 up.
— Marilyn Courtot
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Greenberg's exploration of Bearden's art is filled with large, full-color reproductions, primarily of his mature works. The illustrations occasionally fill an entire page, and give readers an excellent overview of Bearden's style and subject matter. Some photographs of the artist are included as well. Using the collages and lithographs to reveal biographical snippets and memories results in disjointed and choppy text, both in sentence structure and in subject matter. The author hops around from one point to another with little warning or set up. Her admiration for her subject comes across clearly: "When we look at his paintings, we feel we could be right there with him running through a cotton field in North Carolina or sitting on the front stoop of a tenement in Harlem." The time line includes some new research, most notably that Bearden graduated from New York University with a degree in education, when previous accounts cited his degree as in mathematics. However, the date of his marriage to Nanette Rohan is given as 1951, when it was actually 1954. The pagination is also problematic, citing the wrong pages for quotes within the book. Also, there is nothing within the text of the book to indicate that a further explanation of a quote or definition of a term is located in the notes or glossary. Still, for its illustrations alone, schools or libraries with a high interest in art may wish to purchase this book.-Heather E. Miller, Homewood Public Library, AL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bearden grew up in North Carolina, and his memories of his neighborhood and countryside, quilting bees, cotton picking, picnics, and revival meetings are well-known subjects of his collage art. His life in Harlem is reflected in additional themes of jazz, blues, and city life. This big, beautiful volume doesn't so much detail Bearden's development as an artist as demonstrate how his most famous collages and photomontages, from the 1960s to the '80s, came to be. Big reproductions, some full-page, illustrate his life and are an excellent introduction to his work, the best available for young readers. A final section, titled "Studio Visit with Romie," describes the artist's method and could lead young readers to experimentation with collage art. A list of places to see Bearden's artwork is included. The volume is a companion to an upcoming retrospective at the National Gallery of Art that will travel to several other cities through 2005. (author's note, chronology, bibliography, glossary) (Nonfiction. 4-8)

Product Details

Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.50(w) x 12.37(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

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