Thursday, July 26, 2007

Romaine Brooks

Romaine Brooks is one of the 'rediscovered' artists of recent years who should have been rediscovered- her works are central to an understanding of Modernism. Among the early twentieth century artists of the left bank, Brooks isn't as important as Picasso, nor as overrated as Lempicka. But her work is important because it shows the aesthete as a work of art- as an inanimate thing. She recognizes that the aesthetic object is almost a corpse- something we see in Wilde or Klimt as well. Modernism is an endpoint- from Proust to Joyce, modernism represents the fertilizing potential of decadence. It's a sort of erotic psychopathology.
Brooks paints the last people on earth, after the Great War has brought about Europe's Rapture. Her beautiful corpses are a period at the end of Western Culture- deathworks no less important than any of the other deathworks of modernism, although perhaps less accomplished than the masterworks of modernism. No matter- the era isn't complete without her.

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