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Romare Bearden

Eastern Barn

1968

Romare Bearden, Eastern Barn, 1968  69.14
Romare Bearden, Eastern Barn, 1968. Collage of paper on board, 55 1/2 × 44 in. (141 × 111.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase  69.14 For Teachers
Art © Romare Bearden Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

about this work

Eastern Barn, composed of photographs, magazine cutouts, and pieces of painted and mottled paper, is likely based on a memory from Romare Bearden’s childhood in the South. Two men, perhaps on a break from work, converse in a barn as a female figure listens in. Bearden’s composition calls attention to its own disjunctive structure. While some details (such as the bird that the man on the left holds in hand or the basket of eggs by the woman’s side) create a three-dimensional effect, the figures are resolutely flat; the grey clothes of the man on the left seem to almost merge into the background. There are shifts in scale too—heads, feet, and hands are disproportionate to bodies, and the bodies in turn seem large compared to the interior space in which they are located. 

look closer

What clues do you see that tell you who these people might be?

What might these people be doing? How do you know?

Describe this place. Where do you think they might be?

What materials do you think the artist may have used to make this work of art? How can you tell?

Activities

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Romare Bearden, Eastern Barn, 1968  69.14 For Teachers

Romare Bearden’s collages of rural Southern scenes are recollections of his birthplace in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where he spent summers with his grandparents during his childhood. Eastern Barn is one of many collages in which Bearden portrayed the daily lives of African Americans. Look closely at Bearden’s work—who might these people be, and what might they be doing? Why might this scene be special to Bearden?

Ask your students to think about a place that was or continues to be special to them. For example, it could be a room in their home, school, a park, a vacation spot, or a local hangout spot. Ask them to spend five minutes writing down notes about this place. Who would be there? What was it like to be there? What would you smell, see, and hear there? What details can you remember about the place and the people there?

Ask your students to make collages based on their experiences and memories of this place and the people they would encounter there. They should focus on using the collage materials to create the composition and forms, but may use markers to add details. Ask your students to consider their use of color, shape, line, and texture.

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