ROMARE BEARDEN (1911 - 1988) A Land Beyond the River.
Collage with various colored papers, with pencil and red ink, mounted on cream wove paper, 1957. 289x559 mm; 11x22 inches. Signed in ink, lower right.
Provenance: gift from the artist; Loften Mitchell, New York; thence by descent to the current owner, private collection, New York.
Exhibited: ACA Galleries, New York; Vered Gallery, East Hampton, with the labels on the frame back.
Playwright Loften Mitchell and Romare Bearden became friends and artistic collaborators while both were social workers in the New York City Department of Welfare. Bearden made the collage and designed the set for his friend's 1957 same-titled off-Broadway play, a drama about a South Carolina pastor who fought for desegregation. Another Bearden collage was used as the cover illustration for Loften Mitchell's novel The Stubborn Old Lady Who Resisted Change, written in 1968 and published in 1973, based on their experiences as social workers.
One of the earliest known collages by Romare Bearden, A Land Beyond the River 1957, is an important work by the artist. Romare Bearden's collage is typically associated as beginning with his groundbreaking 1964 photomontage and photostats, coming out of his particpation with the Spiral Group. However,A Land Beyond the River is one of a very scarce group of earlier examples of his collage. The collage combines a use of colored papers, a graphic quality and subjects that are all signifcant for the artist's ouevre. The motifs found in this Southern drama will re-appear often in Bearden's later work: the flattened silhouette of hands, a flame, the seated mother and child. Other early, similar collages are Bearden's Harlequin, circa 1956, and Circus (Circus: the Artist's Center Ring), 1961; both use brown and solid colored papers similar to A Land Beyond the River.
Ruth Fine in a footnote to her 2004 The Art of Romare Bearden describes the collage as only being "known from a Polaroid photograph" at the time. Fine p. 26, 256.