Romare Bearden mined a wide range of sources: the Bible, the writings of French satirist François Rabelais, his childhood memories of Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, the people and streets of Harlem, the epic poems of Homer, and more. He revisited many of these themes time and time again. Thus he made ink drawings and watercolors inspired by Homer’s Iliad in the 1940s, and a series of twenty collages based on The Odyssey in 1977.
Bearden’s collages drew strong praise when they were exhibited at the Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery in New York’s Upper East Side in the spring of 1977, and he went on to make watercolor versions around the same time. About two years later, he translated six of the collage compositions into screenprints, which were published as the Odysseus Suite in 1979.