Bearden (1911-88) is best known for his indelible figurative collage depictions of African-American life in all its quotidian richness, strength and struggle… Bearden’s far more obscure abstractions… have tended to be given short shrift in his biographies and retrospectives…
While most stain painting technique in the 1950s and early ’60s derived from Helen Frankenthaler’s innovative “Mountains and Sea,” of 1952, Bearden developed his approach on his own… studying informally with a calligrapher he knew only as Mr. Wu, who had a bookshop on Bayard Street. Mr. Wu showed Bearden the often more delicate techniques of Chinese ink painting which Bearden soon adapted to oil paint by thinning it with turpentine (which all stain painters did). This way of working provided a new ease by bringing Bearden, who had never liked the thickness of oil paint, close to one of his favorite mediums, watercolor.
(Roberta Smith, “Romare Bearden’s Rarely Seen Abstract Side,” NYTimes, 3-?-20)
(c) 2020 JMN