Did she stop painting?

According to Romaine Brooks she never laid aside her brushes. In her audio interview from 1968 she was dismayed that McAvoy had painted her in a background that show her with dried up brushes and a pallet. She said emphatically that he had not shown her glass table that she used as a pallet which implied that she was not painting any more. By implication this suggest that she was still actively making act at the time he painted her.

So for those of you reading Wiki I am in the process of updating the errors in it. It is a work in progress. It was her intention to paint him but he never was available long enough to sit for her. So she painted Duke Umberto Strozzi at the age of 87 in 1961.

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Plus ça change

Gay Marriage is nothing new. Almost 100 years ago in 1916 when Romaine Brooks became so famously involved with Natalie Barney she accepted the fact that the love of her life had been lovers with her good friend–Elisabeth de Gramont, duchesse de Clermont-Tonnerre, since 1909.

Brooks and Barney had only been passionately involved for 18 months when Gramont reached the breaking point. Natalie made no distinction between the two great loves of her life.  A lesbian crisis worthy of a Wagnerian opera occurred.  Lily wrote Natalie a scathing letter, ending their relationship, and left Paris for Evian during a lull in the fighting.

Frantic, Natalie drafted a marriage proposal and pursued Lily hundreds of miles to get it signed. It is probably not the first gay marriage contract in history but it is certainly among the most startling and original between two lesbians.

Romaine and Natalie stayed together, although we don’t know how or when they solemnized their private vows.  Romaine’s 1920 portrait of Natalie is one of the greatest wedding presents ever given by one lesbian to another.  All three women accepted the fact that their marriages would not be monogamous. They would have to live independent lives.  Nonetheless, their love for each other was so great, and Natalie’s sexual allure so magnetic, that all three remained loving partners for the rest of their lives until Lily’s death in 1954.

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Romaine Brooks painted this portrait of Natalie Barney in 1920, in the year after Natalie and Elisabeth de Gramont returned from their wedding trip to America. Romaine’s portrait of Lily de Gramont, painted around 1923, hung in Natalie’s house for the rest of their lives. Brooks and Barney were also together for life from the moment they met in 1916.

As we celebrate this 4th of July, Independence Day 2015, many people, gay and straight will be taking a page from this extraordinary playbook for pursuing life, liberty and happiness, understanding that a stable household is best achieved in a family made up of those you love and who love you.

I’m So Excited!

Now that Romaine Brooks: A Life is in production (coming from University of Wisconsin Press in Fall 2015), I’ve begun work on the book trailer.

2D Animated Book Trailer to Launch Brooks Bio

This is a really exciting experience: an animated story of Romaine’s life narrated partly by herself and partly by me. I am learning so much from executive producer Suzanne Stroh and her team at Fixed Gaze Films about how these projects get made.

We seem to be starting with last things first. While the soundtrack is usually the last thing that gets laid down, it also sets the tone and pace of the piece. Music is crucial for understanding the biographer (me), the subject (Romaine) and the book itself (a biography and critical appraisal of the artist).

Jared Balogh Soundtrack

I’m delighted that we’ve chosen a cool, elegant and very Modern piece by jazz composer Jared C. Balogh, “Pulling Myself Up Through.” It’s a beautiful composition and a perfect fit for both Romaine and me. I don’t know if I’ll ever meet Mr. Balogh, but if I do, I’m going to buy him a drink and toast his creative genius.

You can hear an excerpt in this sneak preview of Fixed Gaze’s logo animation, a work still in progress.

Romaine Brooks Attracts Young Audience at Age 141

We are still only in the storyboard stage of preproduction on Romaine Brooks: A Life. I don’t want to give away the story line; suffice it to say that even at age 141, Romaine is not alone! I have not yet seen the character sketches, but I couldn’t contain my excitement and wanted to share it with all you Romaine fans.

Ever on the trail of Romaine Brooks and her marriage partners

Spring offensive--300px-Western_front_1918_germanA question has been puzzling me related to my latest book, forthcoming from University of Wisconsin Press later this year.  I’ve been wondering — when Lily confronted Natalie, how serious was she? They had been lovers for 9 years and Natalie had been helping to support Lily and her two daughters.

I recently received information confirming that, when Lily delivered her ultimatum to Natalie, demanding that she cut off her relationship with Romaine or suffer the loss of Lily in her life, she fled to the countryside.

This seemed almost impossible to imagine in a country that was at war. But a military historian has confirmed that it actually would have in fact been possible for Lily to travel because the German offensive hadn’t yet gotten fully underway. This also means that Natalie would have been able to chase after, and that the marriage contract between them might have been written en route, rather than in Paris.

You can read more details in my new book, Romaine Brooks: A Life, but a quick look at the map confirms the information I have been sent.