Cover image for Amazons in the drawing room : the art of Romaine Brooks
Amazons in the drawing room : the art of Romaine Brooks
Chadwick, Whitney.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chesterfield, Mass. : Chameleon Books Berkeley : University of California Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
128 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 27 cm
General Note:
Published in conjunction with a traveling exhibition opening at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., June 29 to Sept. 24, 2000 and Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, Oct. 11, 2000 to Jan. 21, 2001.

"In association with the National Museum of Women in the Arts."
Personal Subject:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N6537.B75 A4 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Amazons in the Drawing Room presents a comprehensive and definitive analysis of the life and art of Romaine Brooks, reproducing for the first time in color thirty-four of the forty nudes and portraits she painted, as well as thirty-seven automatic pen-and-ink drawings. The first female painter since Artemisia Gentileschi in the seventeenth century to portray an ideal of heroic femininity, Romaine Brooks (1874-1970), like her contemporary Gwen John, shaped an image of the androgynous New Woman for the twentieth century.

An American born in Rome, Brooks spent most of her life in Paris. After a brief but passionate romance with the poet Gabriel D'Annunzio, with whom she maintained a lifelong friendship, she turned to relationships with women and to art to express her emerging self. For many years the companion of Natalie Barney, whom the artist depicted as L'Amazone in one of her most famous portraits, Brooks belonged to the international lesbian community that included Compton and Faith MacKenzie, Ren#65533;e Vivien, Radclyffe Hall (who immortalized Brooks as the barely fictionalized American painter Venetia Ford in The Forge ), and Una, Lady Troubridge.

The milieu Brooks chose was the privileged, often eccentric demi-monde of wealthy aristocrats and expatriate writers, artists, intellectuals, and performers who gathered in Rome, London, Capri, Paris, and Florence. The social circles she traveled in included Somerset Maugham, Norman Douglas, Charles Freer, Count Robert de Montesquiou, Jean Cocteau, Augustus John, Carl Van Vechten, and Ida Rubenstein, several of whom were subjects for Brooks's portraits.

Amazons in the Drawing Room , published in conjunction with a major traveling exhibition of Brooks's work--the first since 1971--opening at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in June 2000, provides a fresh context to view Brooks's haunting and compelling art. Whitney Chadwick's overview of Brooks's life and artistic focus and Joe Luchesi's examination of Brooks's portraits and photographs of Russian dancer Ida Rubenstein bring into sharp focus the complex artistic, literary, and political influences that shaped Brooks's sensibility and approach to portraiture.

Author Notes

Whitney Chadwick is Professor of Art at San Francisco State University. She has lectured and published widely in the areas of surrealism, feminism, and contemporary art. She lives in San Francisco, California.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This is the first extensive exhibition catalog dedicated to the life and work of Romaine Brooks (1874-1970), providing an introduction to issues and influences that brought her international attention. Unfortunately, the two primary essays do not live up to anticipated promise. The first, by Whitney Chadwick (an expert on 20th-century art), is marred by a consistent inability to provide the best visual comparisons for Brooks's style. Chadwick also oversimplifies the artist's biographical and historical context in her attempt to characterize Brooks's life as appropriate fodder for gender studies. The florid and frequently disconcerting writing style further weakens the essay. The second essay, by Joe Lucchesi (St. Mary's College, Maryland), is more tightly focused. Centering on Brooks's relationship with Ida Rubenstein (muse and frequent sitter), Lucchesi's contribution provides a substantial method for deciphering the personal symbolism of the artist. Extension of this strategy to a greater percentage of Brooks's compelling canvases would have improved the catalog considerably. Although useful for exposing Brooks's work to a broader audience and certainly of interest to scholars for the reproduction of many works from private collections, the sum total is sadly disappointing. General readers; undergraduates; faculty. E. K. Menon; Minnesota State University, Mankato

Table of Contents

Nancy Risque RohrbachJoe LucchesiWhitney ChadwickJoe Lucchesi
Forewordp. 7
Introductionp. 8
Amazons and Heroes: Romaine Brooks and Her Worldp. 10
Selected Paintingsp. 40
"An Apparition in a Black Flowing Cloak": Romaine Brooks's Portraits of Ida Rubinsteinp. 73
Selected Drawingsp. 88
Selected Bibliographyp. 125
Checklist of the Exhibitionp. 126
Indexp. 128