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© Romare Bearden Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

In the Garden from the portfolio Prevalence of Ritual, 1974

Artist: Romare Bearden, American, 1911 - 1988

Medium: Silkscreen

Composition: 36 x 29 in. (91.4 x 73.7 cm)
Sheet: 40 x 32 in. (101.6 x 81.3 cm)

Credit Line: Gift of Art Today

Object Number: 75.5.1

Copyright: © Romare Bearden Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Not on view

Ives-Sillman, Inc.

Romare Bearden spent much of his adolescence in Harlem, New York, where he was introduced to, and strongly influenced by, the musical and cultural innovations of jazz. After graduating from New York University in 1935 with a degree in mathematics, he decided to become an artist, studying under George Grosz at the Art Students League and later at the Sorbonne in Paris. He was inspired by a wide array of influences including Cubism, the Italian Renaissance, Social Realism, and classical Chinese landscape painting. Bearden worked in a variety of media, including collage, photomontage, painting, and printmaking.


His works are richly textured with visual metaphors from his past and from a range of literary, musical, and historical sources with themes paralleling those found in jazz, folk music, and urban and rural African American life. In The Prevalence of Ritual, his series of five serigraphs (the Brooks owns the complete series), Bearden depicts biblical and literary imagery that incorporates rituals, ceremonies, and myths. He often worked in the medium of collage, which is the technique of making compositions by gluing paper, fabrics, photographs, or other materials onto a flat surface. By combining abstract shapes and forms in bold colors and various overlapping patterns, Bearden achieved a collage-like effect through printmaking. The appearance of a lush, fertile oasis is created by filling the composition with abundant plant forms, brightly hued flowers, and exotic-looking birds—a metaphor for a modern-day Garden of Eden. The garden has long been a symbol for fertility and Eve, the first mother, is often depicted holding the forbidden fruit or in the act of plucking it. This contemporary Eve is African American and clothed in modern dress. She could personify the many roles of women through the ages: mothers gathering and providing food for their families, slaves and sharecroppers working in the fields, and women tending their flower and vegetable gardens. Bearden’s image serves as a universal symbol bridging the gap between women of different times and places, and uniting them in their shared roles and rituals.