ObeliskThe Artists
, La France Croisee

Romaine Brooks

Portrait of Romaine Brooks

Fiercely independent lesbian paints Paris in shades of gray

Romaine Brooks grew up hard. Her mother, the american heiress Ella Goddard, wrote demonic poety, spoke to spirits, and doted on her violent, unstable only son — Romaine’s brother St. Mar. Ella had no love for young Romaine, and abandoned her throughout her childhood — leaving Romaine with a New York washerwoman, and shuttling her off to a convent and religious bording schools in her teens.

By 1896, Brooks was 22 and over it. She threw off her mother’s plans to make her a ‘society wife’ and moved to Rome to study art. As the only female student, she was sexually harassaed, and moved again to Paris. Without ties to her wealthy family, Brooks was soon broke, and began spending summers in the less expensive Capri. In Capri, Brooks found her people — the young homosexual intelegensia had made a place for themselves to live with some level of normalcy.

Brooks’s damaged brother St. Mar died unexpectedly in 1901 — and Romaine’s life radically changed. With the male heir of her family dead, Brooks inherited a massive fortune. Untethered from poverty, she struck out on her own as a painter, painting friends and associates from the moody and glittering circles of creative society. Brooks would travel to and from Britian and Paris, painting and possibly romancing the Russian ballet dancer Ida Rubenstein, the Italian musician Renata Borgatti, and the French filmaker and war hero Gabriele D’Annunzio.

At 41, Brooks met her match — the American writer Natalie Barney. The two became powerfully and sometimes jealously connected — eventually moving into a home divided so that Barney could host social guests, and Brooks could maintain her precious solitude.

Reed Enger, "Romaine Brooks, Fiercely independent lesbian paints Paris in shades of gray," in Obelisk Art History, Published February 24, 2016; last modified September 11, 2018, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/romaine-brooks/.

Further reading atalexkittle.com
Read More
The Red Jacket, Romaine Brooks

The Red Jacket

1910
White Azaleas, Romaine Brooks

White Azaleas

1910
The Path, Romaine Brooks

The Path

1911
Spring (La Primavera), Romaine Brooks

Spring (La Primavera)

c. 1910-1913
At The Seaside — Self-portrait, Romaine Brooks

At The Seaside — Self-portrait

1914
La France Croisee, Romaine Brooks

La France Croisee

1914
Ida Rubinstein, Romaine Brooks

Ida Rubinstein

1917
Weeping Venus, Romaine Brooks

Weeping Venus

1917
Chasseress, Romaine Brooks

Chasseress

1920
Renata Borgatti, Au Piano, Romaine Brooks

Renata Borgatti, Au Piano

1920
The Marchesa Casati, Romaine Brooks

The Marchesa Casati

1920
Self-Portrait, 1923, Romaine Brooks

Self-Portrait, 1923

1923
La Baronne Emile D'Erlanger, Romaine Brooks

La Baronne Emile D'Erlanger

1924
Peter (A Young English Girl), Romaine Brooks

Peter (A Young English Girl)

1923-1924
Una Troubridge, Romaine Brooks

Una Troubridge

1924

The unpublished memoirs of Romaine Brooks

No Pleasant Memories

1930

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