Everything that I have done since [my first painting] has been, in effect, an extension of my experiments with flat painting, shallow space, Byzantine stylization, and African design. – Romare Bearden
One of the most important figures in avant-garde American art, Romare Bearden reinvented collage into a hopeful, energetic medium that chronicled African American life, history, and literature. Bearden grew up during the Harlem Renaissance, and his passion for jazz was encouraged by visits from family friends Duke Ellington and Fats Waller during that time. Jazz remained an important theme within his work, seen in Jazz II Deluxe, which captures the communal elements of music. The internal rhythms within this print replicate the beats in jazz: lines of pink give the composition structure; blue, black, and brown illustrate each individual musician; and the variety in his composition suggests spontaneity. Bearden was born in North Carolina and raised in Harlem. He studied art and philosophy at the Sorbonne after World War II, before returning to New York where he worked as a case worker to support his art career until the 1960s. He looked for inspiration during his long career from a variety of sources, including contemporaries like Jacob Lawrence, Dutch Golden Age painters Vermeer and Jan Steen, Mexican muralists, African sculpture, and modernists including Mondrian and Picasso. Bearden was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1987 and died in 1988. His work is in the collection of many major institutions and has been the subject of numerous retrospectives.