Brooks, Romaine

Brooks, Romaine (b. Beatrice Romaine Goddard)

(1874–1970) painter; born in Rome, Italy. Child of wealthy and erratic Americans, her mother was in Rome because her husband had deserted her and she was seeking medical help for a mentally disturbed son. Brought to New York City, Romaine was virtually abandoned by her mother at age seven and only rejoined her in London after attending a school in New Jersey (1882–86). After being placed in different European boarding schools, at age 21 she was able to go off to Rome to study painting (with a small allowance forced from her mother). After settling on the island of Capri, she returned to France at her brother's death (1901); with her mother's death in 1902, Romaine became independently wealthy. She then went to England where she was influenced by the work and palette of James McNeill Whistler (and had a brief marriage with an Englishman, John Ellingham Brooks). In 1908 she settled in Paris where (ca. 1915) she met the American expatriate Natalie Clifford Barney; they formed a passionate relationship that lasted over 50 years. She achieved some success with her paintings, particularly her portraits, and came to know many of the artists and writers who came to Paris—she was particularly close to Gabriele D'Annunzio. Her drawings to illustrate her memoirs of her nightmare youth with her mother and brother are considered her strongest work. In 1969 she broke with Barney, who wanted to live with another woman, and although a recluse, she painted almost until her death.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.