A mother and child reading by lamplight, depicted in striking shades of blue, brown and yellow. A woman cradling an older woman at a table overflowing with flowers, pears and watermelon. Ships crossing a deep blue ocean, carrying slaves from one continent to another. 

Two people carry a ladder in an art galleryRomare Bearden, one of the 20th century’s most celebrated African American artists, was known for his bold collages depicting both the everyday joys and the sociopolitical trials of black life in America. 

A traveling exhibit opening today at UMD’s David C. Driskell Center for the Study of Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora, “Romare Bearden: Artist as Activist and Visionary,” focuses on Bearden as both an artist and a social activist. It features more than 45 of his works, including collages, watercolors, drawings, prints and editorial cartoons.

“Romare Bearden was not only a mature and richly gifted artist. He was one of America’s early scholars in the study and documentation of the creative legacy of African American art,” said Professor Curlee R. Holton, director of the Driskell Center. “His unique collage-like style and intimate subject matter brought to life histories and familial relationships of African Americans with respect and affection.”

See some of Bearden’s work in the gallery below.