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"Self-Portrait" by Romaine Brooks, 1923 

Artist Romaine Brooks reflects her modernity in this portrait

Although born into a wealthy Rhode Island family, Beatrice Romaine Goddard had a childhood filled with abuse and neglect. She studied art in France and Italy in the 1890s, married briefly, and then settled among the intellectual elites of Paris, where she received high praise for her portraits of friends and lovers. Today, Brooks’s works call attention to the obstacles she faced pursuing professional and sexual freedom as an open lesbian.

Self-Portrait

Object Details

See more items in
Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department
Painting and Sculpture
Date
1923
Object number
1966.49.1
Exhibition Label
With this self-portrait, Brooks envisioned her modernity as an artist and a person. The modulated shades of gray, stylized forms, and psychological gravity exemplify her deep commitment to aesthetic principles. The shaded, direct gaze conveys a commanding and confident presence, an attitude more typically associated with her male counterparts. The riding hat and coat and masculine tailoring recall conventions of aristocratic portraiture while also evoking a chic androgyny associated with the post--World War I "new woman." Brooks's fashion choices also enabled upper-class lesbians to identify and acknowledge one another.
The Art of Romaine Brooks, 2016
Luce Center Label
In this painting, Romaine Brooks portrayed herself in the dark colors of a man's outfit, her eyes veiled under the shadow of her hat brim. Brooks lived most of her life in Paris, where she crafted an androgynous appearance that challenged conventional ideas of how women should look and behave. The shadowed face in this portrait suggests that her true self is hidden behind a carefully constructed facade. The tiny flash of red on Brooks's lapel represents the ribbon of the Legion of Honor she received for her artistic achievements, but it might also hint at the secret passions of her personal life.
Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist
Artist
Romaine Brooks, born Rome, Italy 1874-died Nice, France 1970
Sitter
Romaine Brooks
Romaine Brooks
Topic
Cityscape
Dress\accessory\hat
Occupation\art\painter
Occupation\art\designer
Portrait female\self-portrait
Occupation\art\printmaker
Portrait female\waist length
Medium
oil on canvas
Dimensions
46 1/4 x 26 7/8 in. (117.5 x 68.3 cm)
Data Source
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
Type
Painting
GUID
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/vk7dc522e51-d1e8-4cc9-9446-92307dfa84d9
Record ID
saam_1966.49.1

Self-Portrait

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