"..Romaine Brooks risked certain formal solutions 52 years before Picasso dared to attempt them". -Edouard MacAvoy, President, Salon D'Automne.
Meryle Secrest's, "Between Me and Life- a biography of Romaine Brooks" pays homage to one of this century's most perilous, vital, and neglected painters. Romaine Brooks' portraits captured a darker human essence, a psychological tapestry of secrets, earning her the title,"Thief of Souls". Her subjects included many of the most profound and influential members of the european artistic community, including Jean Cocteau, and Natalie Barney. Her sketches and short stories employ emotional and stylistic minimalism, revealing sharp torment and a deep-seated fear of abandonment. Color plates included give readers a rare look at some of Brook's most famous works ("Self Portrait", "Jean Cocteau A L'Epoque..", "Ida Rubenstein"), part of the National Collection in Washington. Archival black and white photos of Romaine's family, friends, and fancies are also included, bringing us closer not only to the artist, but the woman.
Secrest chronicles Brook's life in great detail; a frightful childhood of nurseries and substitutes, a superstitious and vengeful mother, psychological confusion, family disintegration, sexual liberation, wealth, and an artistic innovation that influenced future masters, including Picasso.
Secrest writes power and conviction, yet is both compassionate and insightful with all subject matter. The extent of her research is vast, her respect for the artist, evident throughout the text, creating a stunning biography of a brilliant and unjustly overlooked painter. The biography is an immense contribution to the amnesiac artistic and feminist heritage of America.
Out of great love for Romaine Brooks, and deep appreciation for Meryle Secrest, I urge all people to read this book. Published in 1971, it is now considered hard to find, and (depending on the source)can get a bit pricey, but no cause to complain. The search is exciting, and the payoff immense. -Allison Lubas 10/9/97