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Amazons in the Drawing Room:
There can be few art historians better placed than Whitney Chadwick (Women, Art, and Society) to write the biographical essay that prefaces this catalog of the work of Romaine Brooks, the expatriate American artist more famous for her role in Natalie Barney's sapphic circle in Paris in the 1910s and 1920s than for her striking paintings. Anyone familiar with the birth of modern art will immediately note Brooks's influences, from Whistler to Klimt, Schiele, and Gauguin. What is less obvious is her advancement, as Chadwick argues, of an ideal of heroic femininity: even if it is an ironic ideal, as seen in her most remarkable and possibly best-known painting, the 1924 portrait of Una, Lady Troubridge, the lover of Radclyffe Hall, in morning coat and striped trousers, flanked by her dachshunds. While art history continues to privilege stylistic innovation over content, there is hope for the resuscitation of Brooks as perhaps the first painter to document a lesbian gaze, as in her beautiful profile of the short-haired, androgynous Peter, A Young English Girl (1923-4). The book includes an essay by Joe Lucheesi on Brooks's portraits of the dancer and mime Ida Rubinstein, one of her lovers. --Regina Marler [via]