“Impressionistic Memories”, by David Yezzi
Born a century ago in North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County, the American painter and collagist Romare Bearden (1911–1988) moved with his family to New York when he was 3 years old. While many of his most famous images—including the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “The Block” (1971), depicting a teeming section of Lennox Avenue
in Harlem—focus on scenes of African-American urban life, Bearden never strayed far in his work from the countryside and people he glimpsed as a child in rural North Carolina.
For Bearden’s centennial, the Mint Museum here has mounted a retrospective that brings into sharp focus the artist’s Southern roots—the fields, farmhouses, rituals and trains, which Bearden worked into brightly colored Cubist landscapes and intimate domestic interiors. Subsequent stints in New York, Pittsburgh and St. Martin in the Caribbean all found their way into Bearden’s work. But beginning with his early figurative gouaches of the 1940s, Bearden made it clear in image
after image that, as he put it, he “never left Charlotte, except physically.”