Romare Bearden (1911-1988)
Dream Time
signed 'Romare Bearden' (lower left); titled 'Dream Time' (on the reverse)
acrylic and printed paper collage on Masonite
17 ⅛ x 22 in. (43.5 x 55.9 cm.)
Executed in 1970.
Shorewood Publishers, New York
Private Collection, New York
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Romare Bearden: The Prevalence of Ritual, March-July 1971, p. 17, no. 45.
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Lot Essay

A bold riff on the classic interior scene, Romare Bearden deftly employs his quintessential use of collaged magazine cut-outs in Dream Time (1970) to simultaneously acknowledge art history while entirely reimagining the canon for the purpose of reinstating its relevance. For some, Bearden interprets a familiar moment – mother, father, son and daughter around the dinner table about to dig in to a hearty, homecooked meal. Others, however, will notice the mysterious nude in the back room or the intentional blurring of corporeal boundaries and be reminded instead of a different type of fractured family, one with hidden secrets and healing scars. Too much an optimist to abandon his commentary there, Bearden resolves the tension with a window view of a far-flung country manor, reminding the viewer of the fifteenth-century Italians’ astute observation that the picture itself is the window to the world.

Having moved to Harlem in 1914, Bearden quickly devoted himself to the neighborhood’s own burgeoning Renaissance, rejecting pre-war elitism for the moving lines of Langston Hughes and grounded melodies of Duke Ellington. While interested in reality, Bearden was similarly committed to overwriting his surroundings with the beauty and feeling tried and tested by his forebears: “Thus while many of Bearden’s collages take the representation of daily life in the African-American community of Mecklenburg County, Pittsburgh, or Harlem as their principal subject matter, Bearden’s work reaches beyond the immediate and the familiar to suggest the complex heritage of his artistic and cultural identities. …Bearden replied, ‘I am a man concerned with truth, not flattery, who shares a dual culture that is unwilling to deny the Harlem where I grew up or the Haarlem of the Dutch masters that contributed its element to my understanding of art’” (S. Kennel, “Bearden’s Musée Imaginaire,” in The Art of Romare Bearden, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2003, p. 146).

The present collage in particular is one of eighteen unique maquettes commissioned by Sam Shore of Shorewood Atelier with the intention of printing multiples of each using an innovative technique merging collage and screenprint. Only six of these were in fact rendered as prints in what became known as the Ritual Bayou series, and the present lot is not known to be one of the works ever multiplied. To commemorate the project and emphasize the work’s importance in the artist’s oeuvre, Dream Time was included in Bearden’s landmark 1971 solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Uniting his iconic imagery, refined use of collage elements and poignant perspective, the present work testifies to the artist’s lifelong endeavor to express those universally quotidian experiences by elevating them to art status. What is life, after all, but a time to dream?

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