menu About Posters American Events Designed to Sell Advice to Americans Patriotic Persuasion Index of Posters
crop mark crop mark
Go Back Go Forward
crop mark crop mark
2 of 37

Romare Bearden (1912–1988)
Three Rivers Press, Carnegie Mellon University
Africa Speaks to the West, from the series "Poetry on the Buses," 1976
offset lithograph
27.9 x 71.1 cm (11 x 28 in.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of Poetry on the Buses
© 1976 Three Rivers Press, Carnegie Mellon University

The innovative program, Poetry on the Buses, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, commissioned poster designs by nationally recognized artists, who combined their drawings with poetry to enliven mass transportation. Frances Balter, a former member of the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, founded the group and selected the artists. As a leading African-American painter, Romare Bearden evokes an African sentiment with silhouetted symbols of a drummer and mask, which depict the photographic theme in the poem.

Detail 1
Detail 2




| American Events | Designed to Sell |
| Advice to Americans | Patriotic Persuasion | Image Index |



detail

Back to the top


detail

Back to the top




Biography of Romare Bearden

First a student of George Grosz at the Art Students League in New York, Romare Bearden later studied philosophy at the Sorbonne. Active and accomplished as a jazz and folk musician during the 1940s, Romare Bearden experimented with abstraction when he returned to painting in the 1950s. Bearden and other Afrcian-American artists formed a group known as Spiral, which considered the artist's responsibility to the community. He based his illustrations of the daily life and mythology of his people on a style partly derived from the use of photo-projection and collage. This style and Bearden's commitment to African-American themes quickly led to several poster commissions.

Because Bearden's art conveyed the fragmented nature of ordinary life, he was called on to adapt his art to reach out to mass audiences. He participated in the Poetry on the Buses project, which provided a humanizing element among the largely commercial ads seen on urban transportation. Active and well regarded in the artistic community, Bearden also wrote several books on African-American artists and organized exhibitions. Late in his life, he experimented with a new style, adopting the intense color of the Caribbean landscape, where he and his wife had a home.

Back to the top