Romaine Brooks Lives

Romaine and her circle are alive and doing their thing in this lively and entertaining yet serious farce by Francesco Rapazzini.

Award winning screen writer and creative Suzanne Stroh gives a dazzling interpretation of more than sixteen voices;male and female who make Natalie’s birthday party so entertaining, full of delicious gossip, and fraught with tension.

Lovers of Romaine will find her voiced by Suzanne based on the only known recording of her voice. This is an incredibly easy and enjoyable way to get more familiar with the Paris of the 1920s through this remarkable group of free thinking and living people. Naturally, I loved it!

Romaine’s Villa Sant Agnese

Romaine Brooks’s Villa in the hills of Florence is being restored. This is the place that she and her lover Natalie Barney suffered privations and constant threats of being sent off to an internment camp in Parma before deportation to a concentration camp because of being foreigners, and in Natalie’s case having Jewish blood during WWII.

It’s in the stars​​​

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Romaine Brooks, Natalie Barney, and Lily de Gramont shared an interest in Astrology and Tarot throughout their lives, as was Natalie’s other lover Dolly Wilde. This does not strike one strange because during the 19th and currently, people are curious about what the future holds and how it will affect their lives and loves.

In 2014, author and translator, Suzanne Gerber-Stroh consulted an astrologer to construct birth charts for Romaine Brooks and her intimates. Here are the results.

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Satisfy your insatiable curiosity and make what you will of how closely Mr. Mann’s findings correspond to the personalities of these highly creative and productive gay women.

For more go to Suzanne Stroh’s link and look for the 2014 entry.

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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MS. Blog Interview

A terrific and timely interview with me in Ms. Magazine by Mary Meriam.

Sexual politics are alive and flourishing in the GOP presidential race and in the current debates regarding Hillary Clinton’s qualifications for the office. So having independent women like Romaine Brooks and her circle, having their say about real women’s lives and creativity is a blessing.

Romaine’s circle of women and lesbians forged their own notions of a room of one’s own, in their case several houses and shared households, as well as space to spread their creative wings wide. Their notions of how to live authentic lives are much more contemporary than they have previously been given credit for.

Not everyone will want to emulate their lifestyle, but we have to give them full credit for demanding one given the limitations placed on women during the interwar period and beyond.

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For one and all

Sapphic Modernism and Meaning

Romaine's Way
Romaine’s Way

A new book, The Sexuality of History: Modernity and the Sapphic, 1565-1830 by Susan Lanser simply underscores the importance of Romaine Brooks’s and Natalie Barney’s vision of modernity and exposes as theorist Martha Vicinus has remarked “the centrally of Women’s subordination in the construction of social and cultural systems.”

I hope that my book, Romaine Brooks: A Life (University of Wisconsin Press) which is now at the compositors will help to clarify how Romaine and Natalie envisioned true female independence They both faced overwhelming odds against any woman, much less a lesbian feminist being truly her own woman. They both struggled to find themselves and enable other women to be thoroughly modern in their sense of it. I sometimes wonder what people will take away with them from my book. I look forward to finding out.

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.

Genealogy

Why should any of us care about family history?

Even I sometimes wonder but am consistently reminded why. As a biographer, researcher, art critic and writer, tedious as tracking these things can be, it’s worth the effort. A case in point is Romaine Brooks and her vague connection to the Bonapartes’ family tree. The question as to which branch comes up in her memoir and now — suddenly — in a Barney letter that is for sale on eBay. One path leads to another entirely.

Independent of the Bonaparte question, tracking down the connection becomes more interesting when you consider that it will establish a date for when Natalie was in Nice visiting Romaine. It requires re-reading of other biographers to see if they are aware of the resulting dates. After that, there’s the cross-referencing of information as the pieces of various puzzles begin to fall into place. And then it’s back to re-checking my chronology of Brooks’ life to see if everything fits.

This is why the small details count in the larger picture of reconstructing a subject’s life and understanding how they lived it as much as anyone removed from a life can.

If you want to read a fictionalized adventure in biography, try Possession. For added enjoyment, see the film.

The manuscript is awaiting copy editing

Romaine Brooks: A Life is now in the pipeline and just awaiting copy editing. As the author, I must admit that it has been the journey of a lifetime. My take on Romain’s life and times is entirely new, based on fresh research coming out of France, as well as collections relating to her which other biographers may not have analyzed as closely as I have.

Networking across disciplines yielded fantastic connections that allowed for an unprecedented stage of fact-matching and checking. The process yielded a new and more fully nuanced reading of this fascinating woman’s artistic and daily life that was simply unavailable to earlier biographers, through no fault of their own.

Simply put, Romaine Brooks was not the psychologically challenged lesbian artist as which she has been portrayed by previous biographers.

My book paints a new — and, we now know, much more accurate — picture of her that refutes most of what has been written about Brooks and her art.

The new book also corrects many false impressions, most importantly that she was a fascist sympathizer and virulent anti-Semite. Reading her On The Hills Of Florence during the war and about the six years she and Natalie Barney (who was a quarter Jewish) makes her position as a conservative American living abroad much clearer than the simplistic and unexamined readings of her attitudes that have gone before.

All I can say is the evidence is now online from the Smithsonian institution for you to read for yourselves. What my book does is to contextualize this material in accord with Romaine’s life and choices to achieve a better understand her personality and thought processes.

Equally Intriguing is the true nature of her love life with Natalie Barney and her relationship to Lily de Gramont. I hope you will look forward to reading all about the fascinating Mrs. Brooks come 2015-16.

For those of you who will be in Washington November 20th I will be doing a talk for the Smithsonian fellows lunch time series at the Archives of American art. You are welcome to come at noon to the second floor conference room. Just present I’d and take the elevator to learn more about the Romaine we never knew and the missing works by her that we still need to rediscover and bring before the public. So stay tuned for more news.