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Romare Bearden

Empress of the Blues
1974
acrylic, pencil, and printed paper
36 x 48 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, purchase in part through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

A smoky club and swaying musicians back up the mesmerizing soloist in Empress of the Blues. Legendary singer and songwriter Bessie Smith earned the title “Empress of the Blues.” She was one of the biggest stars of the 1920s and was popular with both black and white audiences. The statuesque Smith transfixed audiences with her fabulous voice and imposing presence.