Romare Bearden (1911-1988), USA


, c. 1980

Ink, felt-tip pen on thin vellum

11 1/2 x 8 in. (29.2 x 20.3 cm)


About this artwork

On this sketch Bearden wrote, “African sculptures: especially classical Benin.” The date on this sketch is c. 1980. In 1977, Bearden had created a series of collages and watercolors based on the Odyssey. According to Robert O’Meally, “Bearden’s “Odysseus Series” created an artistic bridge between classical mythology and African-American culture.” In the collage series, Bearden wanted to show the connection between the universality of hardships facing the Greeks and those facing the people of Benin and also African Americans. Bearden’s Odysseus is peopled with Africans, some of whom resemble figures in this sketch. The man drawn in profile in the sketch above has the same hair-style as a figure in Bearden’s Odysseus series. The other figure in the sketch has the lidded eyes and features seen on Benin bronzes, which also appear in the collage series.

“The Return of Odysseus (Homage to Pinturicchio and Benin), 1977”. Romare Bearden. Art Institute Chicago. Accessed May 3, 2023.

Art Institute Chicago. The Return of Odysseus (Homage to Pinturicchio and Benin), 1977, Romare Howard Bearden. The Collection. Accessed May 3, 2023.

Columbia University. “Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey”. Exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in cooperation with the Romare Bearden Foundation and Estate and DC Moore Gallery, November 15, 2014 – March 14, 2015. Accessed May 3, 2023.

Glenda Gilmore. “In Search of Maudell Sleet’s Garden.” Southern Culture, reprinted from Human/Nature, Summer 2021. Accessed May 3, 2023.

National Gallery of Art, Washington. Romare Bearden: A Resource for Teachers. For the exhibition that took place at National Gallery of Art, Washington, September 14, 2003 – January 4, 2004. Accessed May 3, 2023.