Oil and casein on canvas, cut and mounted on painted board with graphite
88.9 x 127.0 (cm)
35.0 x 50.0 (inch)In the early 1950s, the artist Romare Bearden turned to jazz songwriting after two decades of painting and drawing. When he took up painting again in the mid 1950s, he largely set aside the figural modernism of his earlier years and his work became more abstract than before. By 1956, Bearden had moved on to pure abstraction and it is in this body of work that he began painting freely and on a larger scale, embracing a more intuitive approach based on improvisation and chance. At first working with blocks of painted color, and then moving to stain painting influenced by Chinese art and Buddhist philosophy, he eventually combined these new techniques with painted canvas that he cut and then collaged. Their active surfaces and distinctive beauty place them squarely in the midst of Abstract Expressionism. Along with the freedom of technique and form that became the basis for his later artistic practice, these works presage and set the stage for Bearden’s decisive move to collage in the mid-1960s. Paintings from this seminal period were vitally important to the artist’s development and provide the opportunity to reassess the achievements of this innovative and influential 20th-century artist.