Origins | Bearden's
Biography: Bearden's Interests
From shortly after he graduated from college through the late 1960s
Bearden maintained a full-time job with New York's Department of
Social Services, specializing in cases within the gypsy community.
Work in his studio was concentrated at night and on weekends. Nevertheless,
starting in 1940 Bearden's art was represented in solo and group
exhibitions, both in Harlem and downtown (below 110th Street), and
it consistently received enthusiastic reviews. Religious rituals
and literature played an important role in Bearden's life and art.
So did music--from sights and sounds of folk musicians gathered for "the
Saturday night function" in the south, to the hot tempo of Harlem
clubs and dance halls.
In the early 1950s Bearden devoted considerable
attention to song writing, and several of his collaborations were
published as sheet music, among the most famous
of which is “Seabreeze,” recorded by Billy Eckstine. In addition,
throughout his life Bearden wrote essays on social and art-historical subjects,
as well as three full-length books coauthored with friends: The Painter's
Mind: A Study of the Relations of Structure and Space in Painting (1969)
with painter Carl Holty; and Six Black Masters of American Art (1972)
History of African-American Artists: From 1792 to the Present (posthumously,
1993), both with journalist Harry Henderson.
In 1973 Bearden and his wife Nanette built a second home on
her family's land in St. Martin. They subsequently spent several months in
the Caribbean each year.
These sojourns suggested new subjects, including festivals celebrated and rituals
practiced on the island.
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