Romaine Brooks A Life by Cassandra Langer

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Romaine Brooks A Life by Cassandra Langer

In her latest book, "Romaine Brooks; a Life" art historian Cassandra Langer sheds light on the painter, who up until very recently has been predominately ignored or misunderstood by art historians. Dr Langer's fascinating account of Brooks' life brings a fresh look at both her social sphere of lesbians living in Paris as well as her artistic contributions within Modernism. Dr Langer based her research on newly discovered information on paintings and previous scholarship as well as a careful examination of primary sources material such as personal letters, and memoirs.

(photo. Portrait of the Artist.)

Romaine Brooks (1874 –1970) was an early 20th Century painter who lived abroad in Paris and Florence during and between the world wars. Her artistic output has largely been dismissed by American historians, due to her figurative subject matter depicting lesbian cross-dressers, dandies and other bohemian homosexuals living and working in Europe. Romain was reintroduced to the public when, several of her portraits were exhibited in "Hide/Seek" the much noted, first major queer themed fine art exhibition at Washington DC's National Portrait Gallery in 2010.

Born to a wealthy family Brooks was left a considerable financial trust which afforded her a tremendous freedom, which few women of that day could ever imagine. Brooks used that freedom to cultivate and enjoy a community of lesbians living in France, England and Italy. Romaine's wealth freed her from having to rely on an art dealer or the art market (run by men) to support her career. This enabled her to pursue her own predilections both in subject matter and style. Brooks's portrayals of lesbians, "dandies" and cross-dressers, considered by conventional society as "perverse", was front and center in her work.

One of the more salient aspects of Romaine Brooks personal life was her 50 year relationship to the American writer, and socialite Natalie Barney. Their relationship was never a closeted secret and figures prominently in previous biographies about Brooks. What's less known was that Natalie entered into the relationship with Romain already attached to another woman, Elisabeth "Lilly" de Garmont, one of France's aristocrats and out homosexual. Beginning in 1917 Brooks, Barnes, and Garmont lived as a ménage à trois, until Lilly's death in 1954. Each woman's wealth insulated them from the confines of a traditional life, and even though the three were committed to each other they all maintained separate homes as well as