Romaine Brooks (1874-1970)
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Romaine Brooks, born Beatrice Romaine Goddard, was an American portrait painter who spent much of her life in Europe. Brooks is known for painting women dressed in a masculine or androgynous fashion. Brooks usually painted models, friends, artists, performers and aristocrats.
Brooks was born in Rome and lived in France and Italy for many years as a poor art student. Brooks was raised by her mother, who constantly moved around Europe. She lived with a foster family in New York for part of her childhood, living with very little money.
When Brooks was old enough, she left for Europe on her own to study art in Paris and Rome. At the time it was very uncommon for a woman to study life drawing. Brooks was not interested in Cubism or Fauvism, but remained traditional in her painting style. She was greatly influenced by the work of James McNeill Whistler.
Brooks inherited a great deal of money after the death of her mother, whose father had been a multimillionaire. Brooks, known to be a bisexual, had a short lived marriage to a struggling musician, John Ellingham Brooks. Her husband did not approve of Brooks’ masculine dress and hairstyle.
Brooks befriended avant-garde artists in Paris and exhibited at the Gallery Durand-Ruel. Brooks exhibited nude models and portraits of her lover the Princess de Polignac. Brooks also had a romantic affair with the Italian writer, Gabriele D’Annunzio, and the actress, Ida Rubinstein. Brooks’ longest relationship was with an American writer, Natalie Barney. Their relationship, though non-monogamous, lasted for over fifty years.
Portrait of Jean Cocteau, 1912
Brooks’ reputation grew and she exhibited extensively throughout Europe and in New York. She was known for painting in subtle gray tones, a technique, which she mastered after years of study and perfecting. Almost all of Brooks’ paintings were completed before 1925. During the 1930’s Brooks made a series of drawings and after World War II, she hardly painted.
Brooks’ paintings are now in museums and private collections throughout Europe and the United States. Brooks has been an inspiration to female artists, writers and activists. Do you think you own a painting by Romaine Brooks? Contact us. We are the experts on Romaine Brooks.