Three Folk Musicians (Primary Title)

Romare Bearden, American, 1911 - 1988 (Artist)

Collage of various papers with paint and graphite on canvas
Unframed: 50 × 60 × 1 1/2 in. (127 × 152.4 × 3.81 cm)
Framed: 57 × 67 × 3 1/2 in. (144.78 × 170.18 × 8.89 cm)
Not on view

“Art, it must be remembered, is artifice, or a creative undertaking, the primary function of which is to add to our existing conception of reality.” —Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden noted that the work pays homage to a scene he often witnessed at his grandmother’s boardinghouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: “After supper the boarders would sit in front of the house and talk, or play checkers, or plunk out ‘down home music’ on their guitars.” With hand-painted papers and pieces of magazine photographs, the artist composed a group portrait of two guitarists and a banjoist, honoring the jazz and blues music that inspired African American artists—and modernists in general—beginning with the Harlem Renaissance half a century earlier.

Although Bearden’s subject matter may appear straightforward, his complex compositions were informed by a variety of art historical traditions, from northern Renaissance painting to Cubist collage. More than a traditional genre painting, Three Folk Musicians joins other works in this gallery—such as those by Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann—in using found imagery from contemporary culture to invoke the modern lived experience, updating and expanding the idea of portraiture.

Signed by the artist at upper left corner: Romare Bearden
Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
Cordier & Ekstrom, New York, Romare Bearden: New Collages, October 10-November 4, 1967.
Traveled to J.L. Hudson Gallery, Detroit.

Museum of Modern Art, New York, Romare Bearden: The Prevalence of Ritual, March 25-June 7, 1971.
Traveled to National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, DC; University Art Museum, Berkeley, CA; Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, CA; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; North Carolina Central University, Raleigh, NC; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY.

Smith Kramer Art Collections, Kansas City, MO, American Works on Paper, 1984-1985

Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY, Memory and Metaphor: The Art of Romare Bearden, 1940-1987, April 14-August 11, 1991.
Traveled to Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Wright Gallery, University of California, Los Angeles, CA; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, The Art of Romare Bearden, September 14, 2003-January 4, 2004.
Traveled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA.

Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC, Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections, September 2011-January 8, 2012.

Canaday, John. Romare Bearden: Collages. Detroit: J.L. Hudson Art Gallery, 1967.

Bearden, Romare. “Rectangular Structures in My Montage Paintings,” Leonardo 2 (January 1969): 15-17.

The Art Romare Bearden: The Prevalence of Ritual. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1971.

Schwartzman, Myron. Romare Bearden: His Life and Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1990.

Hughes, Robert, “Visual Jazz from a Sharp Eye,” Time (June 10, 1991): 72.

Campbell, Mary Schmidt and Sharon F. Patton. Memory and Metaphor: The Art of Romare Bearden, 1940-1987. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Glazer, Lee Stephens. “Signifying Identity: Art and Race in Romare Bearden’s Projections.” Art Bulletin 76 (September 1994): 411-26.

Fine, Ruth E. The Art of Romare Bearden. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2003.

Harris, Michael D. “From The Banjo Lesson to The Piano Lesson: Reclaiming the Song.” In Picturing the Banjo, edited by Leo G. Mazow, 144-57. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005.

Hills, Patricia, “Cultural Legacies and the Transformation of the Cubist Collage Aesthetic by Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Other African American Artists.” In Romare Bearden: American Modernist, 221-47. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2011.
©artist or artist’s estate

"Three Musicians" by Romare Bearden

"Three Folk Musicians" is one of the most renowned works by American artist Romare Bearden (1911â0131988). Incorporating hand-painted papers and photographs torn from magazines, Bearden's collages of this period present complex images of African American life from multiple perspectives. Music: "Music Box Rag", performed by the Heftone Banjo Orchestra

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