Romaine Brooks, born Beatrice Romaine Goddard (May 1, 1874 – December 7, 1970), was an American painter who worked mostly in Paris and Capri.
She specialized in portraiture and used a subdued palette dominated by the color gray. Brooks ignored contemporary artistic trends such as Cubism and Fauvism, drawing instead on the Symbolist and Aesthetic movements of the 19th century, especially the works of James McNeill Whistler. Her subjects ranged from anonymous models to titled aristocrats. She is best known for her images of women in androgynous or masculine dress, including her self-portrait of 1923, which is her most widely reproduced work.
Brooks had an unhappy childhood after her father abandoned the family; her mother was emotionally abusive and her brother mentally ill. By her own account, her childhood cast a shadow over her whole life. She spent several years in Italy and France as a poor art student, then inherited a fortune upon her mother’s death in 1902. Wealth gave her the freedom to choose her own subjects. She often painted people close to her, such as the Italian writer and politician Gabriele D’Annunzio, the Russian dancer Ida Rubinstein, and her partner of more than 50 years, the writer Natalie Barney.
Although she lived until 1970, she painted very little after 1925. She made a series of line drawings during the early 1930s, using an “unpremeditated” technique resembling automatic drawing, then virtually abandoned art, completing only a single portrait after World War II.