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Thief of Souls
March 30, 2007 7:31 PM   Subscribe

Romaine Brooks (1874-1970), American expatriate artist known for her haunting portraiture and striking palette, suffered a childhood so dark that she entitled her (unpublished) memoir "No Pleasant Memories." She went on to become an important figure in early twentieth century art and earned the Legion d'honneur in 1920 for her contributions to France in World World I. A pivotal figure in the Paris lesbian salons, Brooks was the model for characters in novels by Radclyffe Hall, Compton Mackenzie and Djuna Barnes. Although said to be "fully herself only when alone," she had a fifty year relationship with Natalie Clifford Barney. Her art has enjoyed a reappreciation in recent years and her work has been featured in exhibitions at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Berkeley Art Museum. Her life and work have been the subject of several books and have a startling contemporary resonance.
posted by Morrigan (10 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fascinating. From the wikipedia artcile on Barney:
They reconciled and travelled together to Lesbos, where they lived happily together for a short time and talked about starting a school of poetry for women like the one that, according to tradition, Sappho had founded on Lesbos some 2,500 years before.
It astounds me to no end that we began the 20th century with American women thinking in quite realistic terms about starting schools of poetry, and we end the twentieth century with American women not always being able to get their prescription meds filled by overly religious pharmacists.

Brooks's painting is amazing. It's sad that the culture in the United States was so inhospitable to such talent.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:58 PM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Terrific post. I've seen the French Cross portrait before but knew nothing about the artist. Thank you.
posted by LeeJay at 8:09 PM on March 30, 2007


LeeJay, that's my favorite.
posted by Morrigan at 8:26 PM on March 30, 2007


That was utterly fantastic. Thanks for sharing.
posted by troubadour at 8:55 PM on March 30, 2007


Thanks for this. I had not heard of her before, strangely, in any of the art history books I've seen, or courses I've been in, and I'm glad to know more about her.
posted by wander at 9:34 PM on March 30, 2007


I saw the exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and it has really stayed with me. It was a fantastic exhibit of an artist with a very unique view of the world, and the talent to communicate it. Thanks for posting this.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:38 PM on March 30, 2007


Wonderful post. Why does it seem like the past was well peppered of fascinating geniuses and iconoclasts, while the present is full of mindless drones trying to copy vapid dreck like Paris Hilton and Doctor Phil.
posted by tula at 10:07 PM on March 30, 2007


Great post, and a tremendous read, thank you very much.
posted by faineant at 11:58 PM on March 30, 2007


Great post.
posted by emmastory at 5:05 AM on March 31, 2007


Nicely put together and interesting post, thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 9:53 PM on April 1, 2007


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