An American Odyssey ’is the first full-dress biography of Romare Bearden (1911 - 88), the African-American artist whose meticulously constructed collages and photomontages startled audiences in the 1960s and continue to dazzle and inspire ... An American Odyssey is a valuable history of Bearden’s artistic development and his relationship with the art world. The 24 pages of color plates and the many black-and-white images sprinkled throughout the text are well chosen, and a pioneering bibliography of Bearden’s published writings, as well as welcome facsimiles of some of his handwritten letters to the author, round out this worthy study. Ms. Campbell’s book will be of interest to those just discovering Bearden as well as to experts, along with anyone interested in the history of American art in the mid-to-late 20th century. It is an admirable gesture of friendship from author to subject, one which, in its most closely observed pages, does justice to a remarkable life.
...Campbell offers a discerning portrait of Bearden’s long and successful career ... As a college student, he had two passions: baseball and cartoons ... Bearden’s more serious work as an artist began in the 1930s, a period that Campbell sees as 'a cauldron of competing approaches to art' and controversy over how to represent African-American experience. Besides painting, Bearden worked as a case worker, which fueled an awareness of social injustice that emerged in his muckraking cartoons ... A perceptive, richly detailed biography.
Campbell...presents a dynamic portrait of Romare Bearden (1911–1988), focusing on his evolution as an artist ... She chronicles his career from his early days as a young painter inspired by the murals of Mexican painter Diego Rivera in Harlem in the 1930s to his time creating Picasso-inspired collages during the civil rights movement. Campbell details the broad dimensions of Bearden’s rich life, including his stints as a songwriter, a social worker, and his circle of friends and frequent collaborators, who include choreographer Alvin Ailey and authors Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray ... Bearden once wrote, 'The Negro artist must come to think of himself not primarily as a Negro artist, but as an artist,' and Campbell perfectly encapsulates that notion in this analysis of Bearden’s remarkable career.