Romare Bearden ( American, 1911 - 1988 )
Romare Bearden was one of the great collage artists of the 20th century. In this jigsaw-like construction, he deftly assembled painted paper fragments, bits of magazine and newspaper images, and printed fabric in an image of three musicians, each with an instrument. Whether playing for an audience or for casual enjoyment, the trio projects a lively feeling of movement and rhythm. Bearden produced many works celebrating musicians during his forty-year career. He brought the improvisational skills of jazz to his collages, in which he constantly experimented with color, texture, and composition. In Soul Three, as in many of his collages, Bearden constructed the figures’ faces from fragments of reproductions of African masks and sculptures, another important inspiration for the artist.
Bonnie Pitman, ed., Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 285.
Quote from the artist about his process: "I first put down several rectangles of color. Then I might paste a photograph, say, anything just to get me started. I try to move up and down the canvas, always moving up and across. What I'm trying to do then is establish a vertical and a horizontal control of the canvas."
Romare Bearden played semi-professional baseball and was offered a chance to play professionally. He turned down the opportunity because he was told that he could only play professionally if he pretended to be white.
Romare Bearden was not only an artist and a baseball player, but he was also a writer and a musician.
Romare Bearden Foundation
Learn more about the artist and his work from the Romare Bearden Foundation.
Smithsonian Archives of American Art
Read this transcript of an oral history interview of Romare Bearden conducted by Henri Ghent for the Archives of American Art in 1968.
Museum of Modern Art
Compare Bearden's Soul Three to another work with elements of collage and similar subject matter, Pablo Picasso's Three Musicians from 1921.