Romaine Brooks – witty, cautious and brilliant. Once you see a painting by this talented artist you will never forget it. Taking a peek into Romaine’s closet is at the heart of my book, Romaine Brooks. Contrary to inaccurate accounts written by other biographers, Romaine Brooks had a vibrant sexual and family life with two other women; Natalie Barney and Lily de Gramont. A closely guarded secret she took great pains to keep until she passed away in 1970.
This previously unsolved mystery had thrown a 40 year, dark cloak over Romaine Brooks’ life until my research slowly began to reveal the truth. Unfortunately, her closely guarded secret has made the work of refuting inaccurate accounts of her life to be one of my most difficult challenges as her 21st century biographer.
In the past, people have questioned, “Wasn’t she anti-Semitic or a fascist sympathizer?” Providing fresh information about the loves, life and art of such a secretive and talented artist has proved especially challenging for an introvert such as myself, particularly in a public venue. Luckily for me, Romaine Brooks had provided some pointers through her life experiences. She had an air of self-confidence and elegance as was demonstrated when she took Paris by storm in 1905. She was a master of the performative self and beautifully dressed. She was wildly in fashion among the upper classes that adored her and her elegant apartment on the right bank quickly became the talk of the town.
I can only hope to equal her performative skills. Even so, Brooks fans that are in the New York City area can treat themselves to a fascinating free panel discussion at the Leslie Lohman Museum, 26 Wooster Street, from 6 PM to 8 PM. The panel features myself, screenwriter and translator Suzanne Stroh, and art historian James Saslow. Following the panel discussion will be a book signing and reception. For those unable to attend the discussion panel and Q & A, the event will be video recorded and available later this month on my website. It will also be found on the Leslie Lohman Museum’s website.
Romaine Brooks: A Life may be ordered from the University of Wisconsin press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your local book store by request.