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Romare Bearden’s “The Family” Essay

Romare Bearden’s “The Family” (1941) & “The Family (1975) Comparisons Romare Bearden, a great artist that expresses many feelings throughout his photos. He expresses different types of feelings and meanings through colors, background, character demeanor, and even the posture of the characters in the picture. My favorite painting by Romare Bearden has to be “The Family”(1941) due to the fact that I had a personal connection to the picture. I never knew of Romare Bearden’s other painting that related to this one which is “The Family”(1975). This is a similar picture but the family isn’t as depressed as the family in the first picture. This family doesn’t seem to be struggling and appears to be having a good time at the dinner table with one another. These two pictures both have a different meaning but are very similar and share a lot in comparison.

In the first picture “The Family” (1941), the family looks like they may be struggling economically. The table only shows a fork but there is no food, which can either mean that the family doesn’t have much to eat or what they have they can’t eat all of. It looks like they may only eat the bread they have on the table. The oil lamp on the table shows that the house they live in may not have electricity which could also mean they are having money issues and haven’t paid their bills or it could be symbolic of the father “burning the midnight oil”. The background of the picture shows many colors in scattered shapes on the wall which can illustrate chaos or that the family doesn’t “have their stuff together”. The man sitting at the table has his hand in the lady’s face which says to me that he doesn’t want anything to do with her and the baby or wants to be left alone.

The parents are also both painted blue and grey which symbolizes sadness and anger; they may be feeling this way because of the hard times they may be in. The time frame of this painting was during the Great Depression. Most families were struggling to make ends meet. In the painting, the woman seems like she may be looking for answers but the husband can’t do anything at the moment. His frustration is visible in the expression on his face. He appears tired of her bothering him about it, hence the hand.

The child is showing a lot of white which can represent faith, I think the artist did this to say that the baby is giving the family faith because they are trying to provide for their child and in order to do that they need to be able to put food on the table which won’t just only help the baby but them as a whole. The woman may also symbolize strength that’s why the artist made her dress and lipstick red; she’s fiery. She may help the husband maintain his sanity no matter how many problems they are going through as a family.

In the second picture, “The Family” (1975), it seems as if it could be a picture of the same family but they are living a better life. In the previous picture they only had a slice of bread on the table; in this picture they have a whole table of food. It appears like they have a loaf a bread in which the man who is probably the father is cutting. The family also has plates and cups at the table, when in the previous picture; all they had was a plate and a fork. This may mean that the family has become more financially stable and are able to provide for the family that was once struggling. The colors in this picture are brighter and more joyful than the first picture. The first picture had dark colors such as dark blue, grey, black, which often means depression, anger, and sadness.

This picture has bright colors such as yellow, blue, green, white, and even a light blue. These colors often mean happy, joyful, and life. I believe the artist may have chose these colors to express the family because they once struggled and they may feel relieved that things are starting to fall into place and they don’t have to struggle as much as before. Also, the family appears to live with more people than they previously did. There appears to be a woman in the family bathroom who is taking a shower. This could be the child that was in the first picture but she has grown older. There is also two other characters in the house, both of them are young children. One is helping the father and mother with the food by cutting the loaf of bread.The other child is standing behind the first kid, its hard to see what the child is doing. It seems like the child is holding a toy which could be why the child is looking down.

These pictures both share alot in common, they both are pictures of the same family just in different times in their life. The first picture shows them when they were struggling and the second picture shows them years later leaving a lot better than they previously did. They were also made by the same artist, Romare Bearden, which is why the style of the painting is the same. Both paintings contain a lot of color that hold meanings that help explain the picture. I find this unique because if you dont know what the colors mean it may be difficult to understand whats going on in the picture unless you go off the characters demenor. I believe that the pictures have the same characters just in the second one they are older and have added a couple more children to the family.

In conclusion, both pictures have a lot in common not only is the texture, artist, and style the same. But both share a great meaning that many African American families can relate to today.

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