South Park Magazine

Romare Bearden: The Timeline

Romare Bearden Park, which has been in the works uptown since 2000, final opens in Third Ward this month. Artist, author, activist and more, Bearden is best known for his colorful collages. As the long-awaited spot opens, we take a look back at the famed African-American artist, born right here in Charlotte.

September, 1911Romare Bearden is born in his grandparents’ house on what is now known as Martin Luther King Drive. His family moved to New York City just a few years later, but he often returned to his Southern roots.

1920The Bearden family settles in Harlem where the Harlem Renaissance is in full swing. His parents host artists and intellectuals, including Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes.

1930Bearden transfers from Lincoln University to Boston University where he pitches for the college baseball team. He’s offered a chance to play for a professional Philadelphia team, but turns the job down because management wanted him to “pass for a white person.”

1935Graduates from NYU (he’d transferred there in 1932) after having taken extensive art classes, working as the lead cartoonist for the monthly journal, The Medley, and creating political cartoons for an NAACP sponsored journal.

June, 1935Becomes a social worker and continues to take art classes. Also frequents New York jazz clubs that will later be the basis for some of his most well known works of art.

1945First solo exhibitions in D.C. and New York where the works include watercolors and oil paintings, which are acquired by the Museum of Modern Art for their permanent collection.

1950Travels to Paris thanks to the GI Bill and studies literature and philosophy at the Sorbonne. (Bearden enlisted in 1942 as a private in the army and was assigned to guard the NYC subways.)

1954Marries Nanette Rohan, whom he met at a fundraiser for hurricane victims. In the early 1970s, he and Nanette built a second home on St. Martin, where her parents are from. Some of his later work reflects the island’s lush landscapes.

1963Appointed as the first director of the Harlem Cultural Council, a prominent African American advocacy group.

1968His collages appear on the covers of Fortune and Time magazines

March 12, 1988Dies of a stroke. Two years after his death, his wife helped found the Staten Island based Romare Bearden Foundation, which strives to perpetuate his legacy through scholarship and educational programs.

2011On the 100th anniversary of his birth, Bearden’s work is again displayed at Charlotte’s Mint Museum. The Romare Bearden Southern Recollections features 100 pieces and looks at the influence of the South in his work.