The work of Romare Bearden embodies the black experience in 20th-century America. The influences which inspired Bearden throughout his lifetime were many and varied. He grew up in New York during the Harlem Renaissance in a household regularly visited by jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Fats Waller. He went on to make his name in the art world, showing his works with Robert Motherwell, William Baziotes and Carl Holty in the 1940s; he had a career in songwriting in the 1950s but then turned almost exclusively to creating collages, his inspiration being music, Southern life and black culture.
Bearden's technique was time-consuming, yet effective. He created his collages on masonite boards which were laid flat on a work table surrounded by scraps of paper, various oils and temperas, inks, synthetic polymer paints and brushes. Romare Bearden presented black life on a grand and epic scale in a style that was vibrant and poignant. He was also the recipient of the Medal of the State of North Carolina and the National Medal of the Arts.