He is Risen (The Passion of Christ Series)

He is Risen (The Passion of Christ Series)

Romare Howard Bearden (American, 1911-1988)

Not Currently on View
Image Licensing

  • This image of the resurrected Christ, with its colorful angular forms and tangle of black lines, reflects the influence of African sculpture, the faceted planes of Cubism, and stained glass windows. It is typical of the tension between representation and abstraction that characterizes Bearden’s work.
  • Bearden grew up in Harlem and studied in New York with German artist George Grosz, who introduced him to his own satirical approach, as well as styles of the European avant-garde and Old Masters.
  • This work is one of a series of watercolors and oils called The Passion of Christ, which the artist created just after World War II. Bearden was drawn to the theme as a lesson in universal human values.
Curatorial Summary

Bearden was a renowned 20th-century American artist. He grew up in Harlem and was influenced by the Harlem Renaissance and his activist parents, who held meetings in their home that included Langston Hughes and W. E. B. Du Bois. Bearden had wanted to be a doctor and had studied science, but he later changed to mathematics, graduating from New York University. He was a social worker for the New York City Department of Social Services from 1935-1969. He was also a jazz musician and composer. Jazz was an important part of his life and an influence on his art.

Bearden studied art at the Art Students League in New York in 1935. Under the influence of one of his teachers, the artist George Grosz, he began painting social realist subject matter, covering topics on the human condition in a realistic manner. After serving in the Army during World War II, he created a series in 1945 of Cubist-inspired watercolors and paintings called Passion of Christ. He completed 24 of these based on the gospels of Saints Matthew and Mark. The series established Bearden as an abstract painter and gave him his first one-man show in New York, where 20 out of the 24 works were sold. The painting belonging to the IMA was purchased by Duke Ellington.

The religious subject matter reflected Bearden’s interest in Henry Ossawa Tanner’s religious imagery, Albrecht Dürer’s Passion series, and the work of masters—from Giotto, Duccio, and Fra Angelico to Picasso. But Bearden’s works are not so much a translation of the biblical text as they are a visual account of the human condition. Bearden’s work would never completely lose its social content. In Christ Is Risen Bearden captured the spirit of resurrection, and the vibrant colors celebrate rebirth and redemption.


Fine, Ruth, and Jacqueline Francis, eds. Romare Bearden, American Modernist. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2011.

Fine, Ruth, and Mary Lee Corlett. The Art of Romare Bearden. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2003.

Ghent, Henri. “Oral History Interview with Romare Bearden, 1968 June 29.” Smithsonian Archives of American Art. August 4, 2003. https://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-romare-bearden-11481#transcript. Accessed August 3, 2018.

Patton, Sharon F., and Mary Schmidt Campbell. Memory and Metaphor: The Art of Romare Bearden: 1940-1987. New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 1991.

From the artist to Duke Ellington [1899-1974] in 1945; by descent in the Ellington family to Stephen James, Duke Ellington's son in 1974; consigned by James to (Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York, New York) in 2006 {1}

{1} Provenance information supplied by (Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York, New York.)

Object Information

Romare Howard Bearden (American, 1911-1988)
creation date
oil on gessoed cardboard over Masonite
36 x 24 in. (sheet)
44-1/2 x 32-1/2 x 3 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
Signed lower left: Bearden
accession number
credit line
James E. Roberts Fund, Cecil F. Head Art Fund, Mary V. Black Art Endowment Fund, Roger L. Williams Fund
© Romare Bearden Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

You May Also Like