Romaine Brooks (1874–1970) lived most of her life in Paris where she was a leading figure of an artistic counterculture of upper-class Europeans and American expatriates, many of whom were creative, bohemian, and homosexual. Brooks crafted an androgynous appearance that challenged conventional ideas of how women should look and behave, and these ideas extended to many of the portraits she painted in the 1920s, which are some of her best known works.
This exhibition brings together 50 paintings and drawings from the museum’s permanent collection. Toward the end of her life, Romaine Brooks made several generous donations of her paintings and drawings to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Because she was independently wealthy and did not depend on her art for income, some of her most important paintings were still in her possession. Several of these paintings and the drawings have not been seen for decades and are included in this exhibition.