Art historian Kerrin Meis recently gave a lecture on Paris-based painter Romaine Brooks, long overshadowed by her charismatic lover. I quote from the lecture introduction, largely because it contains my favourite new word, ‘retardataire’:
Romaine Brooks is best known for her relationship with the American expatriate writer Natalie Barney, and her paintings have often been dismissed as retardataire because she embraced the figurative in a period of artistic upheaval. But Robert de Montesquiou dubbed her the Thief of Souls, recognizing her uncanny ability to capture the essence of her subjects. Meis will briefly review Brooks’ life, beginning with her bizarre childhood, her flings and affairs, her life with Natalie, and will then turn to her portraits. Who are these people? Why this gray palette? How does she shape a new concept of femininity?
You can listen to the lecture here, and there will be more on Barney’s overlapping worlds next week.