Students will gain an awareness of the diversity of the student population to foster sensitivity in the student population, and our community. Allow student to tell you what they know, what they see and how people of different races, religions, cultures, are really the same, and want the same things for their children, and families.
Mother and Child
Time Alloted1 - 2 Hours
State Content Standards
Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards
Kindergarten, 2.2 Demonstrate beginning skill in the use of tools and processes, such as the use of scissors, glue, and paper.
2.3 Make a collage with cut or torn paper shapes/forms.
2.4 Paint pictures expressing ideas about family and neighborhood.
3.2 Identify and describe works of art that show people doing things together.
3.3 Look at and discuss works of art from a variety of times and places.
4.3 Discuss how and why they made a specific work of art.
Grade 3, 1.5 Identify and describe elements of art in works of art.
2.4 Create a work of art based on the observation of objects and scenes in daily life.
3.1 Compare and describe various works of art that have a similar theme and were created at different time periods.
4.1 Compare and contrast selected works of art and describe them, using appropriate vocabulary of art.
• Oil Pastels or Crayons
• Heavy white paper 9 x 12
• Q-tips for spreading glue
• Magazines with images of people
• “Wet-ones” for gluey fingers
• Collage: gluing pieces of paper or other materials to a two-dimensional surface to create an artwork.
Born on September 2, 1911, Romare Bearden is one of the best known artists of the 20th century. A product of the Harlem Renaissance, Bearden combined African and western aesthetics to produce work that was original and creative and depicted all aspects of the African American experience of the early 20th century. His friends and contemporaries were artists such as Charles Alston, Gwendolyn Night, Jacob Lawrence, and Joan Miró. In 1954, Bearden married Nanette Rohan, with whom he spent the rest of his life. He died, at the age of 76, in New York City on March 12, 1988.
Artists have portrayed women, children and families in many different ways, in paintings, sculptures, and drawings from the beginning of time. They may show them sitting quietly or engaged in some activity. They may choose to paint them in a realistic manner, or they may choose to make abstract paintings, collages or sculptures which show the figure changed or distorted in some manner.
Bearden was born in North Carolina but raised in Harlem, New York during a time known as the Harlem Renaissance. In the nineteen twenties Harlem was alive with black artists, writers and jazz musicians, most of whom visited the Bearden home to meet with the artist’s politically and socially active mother.
Bearden created this collage in 1968 at a time when he was experimenting with adding color, simplifying his compositions and focusing on a few figures, instead of many.
Why is this significant?
Many of Bearden’s works deliberately echo major themes in Western art, such as the “mother and child,” a theme with strong religious overtones and social manifestations. Bearden does not intend his art to be social commentary on the plight of the black American but instead to validate his own experiences as a black man and as an American.
Make a connection:
Artists show the love that parents and children have for each other. Parents hold their children, play with them, and take care of them. What do you and your parents like to do together? Perhaps you have a favorite activity you remember doing with a parent. For example, perhaps you enjoy having a story read to you, playing ball, climbing a mountain, or baking cookies. How would you and your parent dress for these activities – in pajamas, uniforms, outdoor clothes, or in an apron?
Artwork: Mother and Child
Artist: Romare Bearden, 1911 - 1988
In addition to showing the print of Romare Bearden’s, Mother and Child, have a poster, slide, print, or overhead, of other works depicting a mother and child or intimate family scene..
Available from Digital Crocker:
• The Madonna and Child with Angels in Clouds, Alessandro Turchi “l’Orbetto”
• Fisherman's Family, Marsden Hartley
• The Artist's Wife and Son, Herman G. Herkomer,
• Madonna and Child, Adolf Friedrich Georg Wichmann
• The Bath, Mary Cassatt
• Old Man and Grandson, Domenico Ghirlandaio
• The Alba Madonna, Raphael
• Family No. 1, Charles Alston
• The Bath, Mary Cassatt
• Old Man and Grandson, Domenico Ghirlandaio
• The Alba Madonna, Raphael
• Family No. 1, Charles Alston
Compare and contrast the different artworks, the time period in which they were created, the culture, and the different activities of the persons in each artwork.
• Discuss with students what activities they enjoy doing with their family. Who is in their family? How do they dress during these activities? Where are they when doing these activities? Chart the responses.
• Ask students to plan a collage by drawing a sketch first. Think about what colors they will use, what the background will look like, how many figures will be in the collage. Remind students to repeat colors and shapes so that their composition will be unified.
• After planning, students should look through magazines for relevant heads, dresses, colors and shapes, etc. Cut them out. Also provide colored paper scraps for students.
• Remind students that before pasting anything down onto the paper, they need to move the pieces around until they are satisfied with their picture. Tell students to draw the rest of the figures or any other parts that they are unable to find in magazines or by using colored paper scraps. Remind them to leave space for all the cut out parts. Remind them also to show what they are doing, what they are wearing, and where they are.
• After students are satisfied with their artwork, then they may paste the pieces onto the paper.
• After completing the artwork, students can share their artwork with the entire class, in small groups, or with a friend. The following questions can be used as a basis for the sharing:
o My artwork is about…… My artwork shows…
o My artwork is the same or different from that by Romare Bearden…….
Romare Bearden was born in North Carolina in 1911. He grew up in a middle-class African American family. At the age of three his family joined the Great Migration of southern blacks to the north and west, where they settled in the Harlem section of New York. Throughout his childhood, Bearden spent time away from Harlem with relatives in North Carolina and with his grandparents in their boardinghouse in Pittsburgh.
In Harlem, Bearden became acquainted with many of the figures of the Harlem Renaissance through his politically and socially active mother, who was the New York editor for The Chicago Defender. Sooner or later every African American of importance passed through their home at 154 West 131st Street: scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, actor/activist Paul Robeson, poet Countee Cullen, artists like Aaron Douglas and Charles Alston, and jazz musicians Fats Waller and Duke Ellington. The Lincoln Theatre, Savoy Ballroom, and a number of other nightspots were only a few blocks away from his home, and Bearden was deeply immersed in jazz and the blues as a teen-ager.
Bearden became interested in the arts at a very young age. The Lincoln Theatre, Savoy Ballroom, and a number of other nightspots were close to his home, and Bearden was deeply iinfluenced by jazz and the blues as a teen-ager. Another source of inspiration was the sculptor Augusta Savage, who taught art at the Harlem Art Workshop (later known as Harlem Community Art Center). Ms. Savage had many students who would becomewell-known artists, including Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Night. Bearden and his friends would often just simply hang out in Savage’s New York Studio. According to Bearden, Savage was open and free and lived only for her art.
In 1935 Bearden graduated from New York University with a degree in education and took night classes from the German artist George Grosz at the Art Student’s League. Grosz’ artistic medium was collage. According to Bearden, his study under Grosz changed his life, and it was Grosz who convinced Bearden to become an artist. Grosz introduced Bearden and his students to the world of art – the drawings of Ingres, Holbein, Durer, Daumier, and Kollwitz as well as the composition of Vermeer, Ter Borch, De Hooch, Duccio and Brueghel. After his art studies Bearden became a social worker with the New York City Department of Social Services and at the same time found his first studio. Bearden served in the US Army for three years and had his first one-man exhibition in 1945 in New York.
In the early 1950s Bearden traveled to Paris and studied philosophy at the Sorbonne on the G.I. Bill. Although he did not paint during this time, he loved the international quality of the city and met such well-known artists as Braque, Brancusi and Matisse. Upon returning to New York his love for music inspired him to turn to songwriting in the hopes of returning to Paris. In 1954 he married Nanette Rohan, and it was his new wife who encouraged him to return to painting.
After experimenting with oil painting and watercolors in both realistic and abstract styles, he began to make collages which became his most distinctive contribution to the history of art. He died in 1988 at the age of 74. During his career, Bearden received many honors, the most notable in 1967, the President’s National Medal of the Arts.
Title and date: Mother and Child 1968
Artist and Dates: Romare Bearden 1911- 1988
Bearden’s earliest collages were crowded with overlapping figures with huge eyes and massive hands. The profile or frontal views recalled African art, and the flat, crowded spaces suggested the crowded and noisy streets of a large city. In the mid-60s Bearden began to add color to the collages, using colored papers, fabrics or painted paper. In the late 60s and early 70s Bearden simplified his collages, using less detail, less crowded compositions and fewer figures. In the late 70s and early 80s his collages became more painterly, with at times as much paint as collaged areas.
The subject matter of his collages came from his memories of life in North Carolina, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Harlem, and the Caribbean island of St. Martin where he and his wife built a home. From his southern memories he features women doing daily chores (mothering, the wash, cooking) or as conjure women/spiritual healers as well as community or religious rituals like church picnics, baptism and family dinners. Scenes of southern blues depict juke joint singers, shacks, rundown farms, and trains passing through the depressed south to northern opportunities. Bearden’s Pittsburg collages include apartment block houses, smoke stacks, belching steam and flames, steel workers on the way to or from a shift, scaffolding, hooks and pulleys and again the trains, hauling coal and bringing Blacks north. His Harlem memories show the crowded, noisy streets with apartment buildings and brownstone facades open to show mothers fixing a meal or holding a baby, friends visiting, people gathering around a table, men sitting on stoops, and of course, the jazz and blues music and dancing in Harlem’s famous nightspots and clubs. In vast contrast, his memories of St. Martin include woodlands, rocky precipices, pools of water, panoramic ocean views and the Obeah (similar to the southern Conjure women).
Bearden looked to Western art history and that of Africa for inspiration in translating his experiences and memories into art. Thus, his Mother and Child from 1968 harks back to one of the oldest themes in art, that of the Virgin and Child. It belongs to the collection of work he created in the late 60s when he added color, simplified his compositions and used fewer figures. In Mother and Child the head and hands of the figures are classically proportioned and not exaggerated, and the figures dominate the space in a way strongly reminiscent of early Western religious depictions of the Virgin and Child that of west African sculpture. The impersonal, staring quality of the faces, composed of the mother’s collaged African mask and the child’s mask-like cut-paper shape is softened by the mother’s gesture of enclosing the child in a protective one-armed embrace. Although the figures are arranged to suggest depth with a table placed behind the mother, the vibrant green background forces the figures forward and flattens the pictorial space. The collage is created from cut magazine pictures, colored paper and painted paper.
This Mother and Child with their stylized faces is not any one specific mother and child but a symbol for every child and every mother throughout history and among all cultures. Motherhood is a universal experience of mankind. In his art Bearden seeks these universals in the everyday rituals common to all: children playing, women bathing and preparing meals, ceremonies such as baptism, family, men working, making music, dancing, etc. These experiences are continuous from the past through the present and on into the future, making those connections, which Bearden sought in his art.
His childhood during the Harlem Renaissance when he was introduced to black writers, artists and musicians formed the attitudes which carried throughout his life and work. About being an African American artist, Bearden wrote, “It would be highly artificial for a negro artist to attempt a resurrection of African culture in America. The period between the generations is much too great, and whatever creations the Negro has fashioned in this country have been in relation to his American environment. Culture is not a biologically inherited phenomenon.”
In response to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, some two-dozen black artists, including Bearden, formed the Spiral Group to help black artists overcome the difficulties of achieving recognition. It was within this group that Bearden first started making collages. He pasted pictures from magazines onto sheets of typing paper and filled them with drawing and watercolor. These small works were then photographed and blown-up to wall-sized works of art. He called these pivotal first works Projections. From then on collage became his medium of choice.
The jazz and blues music and culture which so fascinated the teen-ager Bearden also came to be a significant source of inspiration for his art making as well. When Bearden was finding his own style, he became interested in the work of the American modernist Stuart Davis. He visited Davis and discovered that Davis composed his painting while listening to the jazz music of Earl Hines. Davis encouraged Bearden to listen to Hines and to seek out visual equivalents for the way Hines played the piano. According to Bearden, he learned from Davis how to incorporate color, interval and rhythm in his art, giving it the freedom and spontaneity of jazz. He said, “The more I just played around with visual notions as if I were improvising like a jazz musician, the more I realized what I wanted to do as a painter and how I wanted to do it.” For Bearden jazz became not only subject matter but also a process for his own art making.
Ruth Fine and others. The Art of Romare Bearden. The National Gallery of Art, 2003.
Myron Schwartzman. Romare Bearden: His Life and Art. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1990.
Richard Carter, editor. The Art of Romare Bearden, A Resource for Teachers. National Gallery of Art, Washington. 2003.
www.beardenfoundation.org - official website with information, activities, lesson plans, and more.