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Romare Bearden papers, 1937-1982

Bearden, Romare, 1911-1988

Painter, Illustrator, Art historian

The papers of Romare Bearden in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2005. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 2,217 images.

Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art

Collection Information

Size: 2.1 linear ft.

Loan: 279 items.

Summary: The papers of Romare Bearden measure 2.1 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.

Biographical/Historical Note

Romare Bearden (1911-1988) was an African-American painter from New York, N.Y.


Correspondence and unmicrofilmed material donated 1977-1983 by Romare Bearden. Material on reel N68-87, except correspondence, lent for microfilming 1968.

Related Materials

The Archives of American Art also holds two oral history interviews with Romare Bearden. One was conducted in 1968 by Henri Ghent and another in 1980 by Avis Berman.


Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art

Location of Originals

  • Reel N68-87, except for correspondence: Originals returned to Bearden after microfilming.