Skip to main content

Alexander Brook papers, 1900-1982

Alexander Brook papers, 1900-1982

Brook, Alexander, 1898-1980

Art teacher, Painter

Collection Information

Size: 4.3 linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter Alexander Brook measure 4.3 linear feet and date from 1900-1982. Found within the papers are biographical material; personal and professional correspondence; writings; personal business records; printed material; scrapbooks; artwork; and photographs of Brook, his family and friends, and his work.

Biographical/Historical Note

Alexander Brook (1898-1980) was a painter and art instructor who lived and worked in Woodstock, Sag Harbor, and New York City, New York, and Savannah, Georgia.

Provenance

The bulk of the papers were donated in several accretions by his Brook's wife, Gina Knee Brook, from 1981 to 1982. In 1982, she loaned a scrapbook for microfilming, which was later donated to the archives by Brook's son, Sandy Brook, in 1994. In 1985 and 1986, the Whitney Museum and Eloise Spaeth each donated a copy of Brook's typescript "Myself and Others."

Related Materials

The Archives of American Art holds an oral history interview with Alexander Brook conducted by Paul Cummings, July 7-8, 1977. There is also substantial correspondence from Alexander Brook in the Peggy Bacon papers.

Funding

Processing of this collection was funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the Alexander Brook Papers in the Archives of American Art
AAA.brooalex
Author
Finding aid prepared by Judy Ng
Biographical/Historical note
Alexander Brook (1898-1980) was a painter and art instructor who lived and worked in Woodstock, Sag Harbor, and New York City, New York, and Savannah, Georgia.
Brook was born in Brooklyn, New York to Russian immigrants Eudoxia Gelescu and Onufri Brook. After contracting polio at the age of twelve, he remained bed-ridden for a year and his formal schooling was suspended. At this time, he began to show an interest in art and began receiving his first lessons in painting. In 1914, he enrolled in the Art Students League where he won scholarships and cultivated friendships with other art students, including Louis Bouché, Niles Spencer, and Peggy Bacon, whom he married in 1920.
Brook and Bacon's two children, Belinda and Alexander Bacon Brook, were born in 1920 and 1922, and the couple divided their time between a summer house in Woodstock and a series of apartments in New York City. Their circle of artist friends included the Bouchés, Niles Spencer, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Andrew Dasburg, and many of the other artists who lived and worked in Woodstock. Brook and Bacon continued to produce art, with Brook focusing on his painting, and Bacon publishing her illustrations and prints in nationally syndicated magazines.
In the 1920s, Brook also wrote articles for
The Arts
and caught the attention of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. She invited him to promote and organize exhibits for her Whitney Studio Club, and from 1923 to 1927, he worked as assistant director of the Club, which was later to become the Whitney Museum of Art. By the late 1920s, Brook's realist paintings of landscapes, still lifes, and posed figures of women were gaining wide recognition and he was given his first retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1929, at the age of thirty-one. In the early 1930s, within the span of three years, Brook exhibited one man shows at the ACA, Valentine, Charles Daniel, and Downtown Galleries in New York City, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1931.
In 1938, Brook moved to Savannah, Georgia and began visiting and painting realist scenes based on visits to the city's oldest black neighborhoods. When Brook's marriage with Bacon ended in 1940, he continued to live in Savannah with his second wife, Libby Berger. After his second marriage ended, he returned to New York in 1942 to teach at the Art Students League and, during World War II, served as a correspondent and artist for the Army based out of Panama.
In 1944, Brook returned to Savannah with his third wife, the artist Gina Knee Brook. Through the mid-1940s, Brook continued to exhibit his works, primarily through the Rehn Gallery, contributed articles and essays to art journals, and was commissioned to paint two covers for the
Saturday Evening Post
. In 1948, the Brooks purchased and moved to their last home in Sag Harbor, Long Island. Believing realist work was no longer well received in critical and contemporary art circles, Brook slowly retreated from the art world, exhibiting his last solo show at Knoedler Galleries in 1952, and retiring from painting in 1966. Brook died on February 26, 1980.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 8 series.
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1907-1979 (14 folders; Box 1)
Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1930-1975 (0.6 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 3: Writings, circa 1921-1975 (0.5 linear feet; Box 1-2)
Series 4: Personal Business Records, circa 1931-1982 (0.3 linear feet; Box 2)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1918-1982 (1.4 linear feet; Box 2-3)
Series 6: Scrapbooks, circa 1935-1975 (0.4 linear feet; Box 3, 5)
Series 7: Artwork, circa 1935-1975 (0.4 linear feet; Box 4)
Series 8: Photographs, circa 1900-1980 (0.6 linear feet; Box 4)
Scope and Contents note
The papers of painter Alexander Brook measure 4.3 linear feet and date from 1900-1982. Found within the papers are biographical material; personal and professional correspondence; writings; personal business records; printed material; scrapbooks; artwork; and photographs of Brook, his family and friends, and his work.
Biographical materials include an address book, award certificates, curriculum vitae, marriage and divorce documents, passports, biographical information on Brook's wife, Gina Knee Brook, and 4 interview transcripts.
Correspondence is primarily with Brook's family, friends, fellow artists, and business associates discussing personal relationships, teaching opportunities, art sales, and exhibitions. Included in this series are letters to Brook's second wife, Gina Knee Brook. Additional correspondents include Brook's children, Belinda and Sandy (Alexander) Brook, Peggy Bacon, artists Niles Spencer and George Biddle, and writer Haniel Long.
Writings by Brook consist of reminiscences, 6 essays, a lecture, a memorium to Catherine Brett, 6 short stories, 2 notebooks, and miscellaneous notes. Writings by others consist of a notebook by Mrs. Beeton containing humorous recipes, an essay, 2 memoirs, poetry, and a short story from unknown authors.
Personal business records include sales invoices, tax returns noting income from sales of artwork, and receipts for various art supplies.
Printed material includes brochures, chapbooks, clippings, city guides, exhibition announcements and catalogs, periodicals, and miscellaneous printed material.
There are two scrapbooks, a clippings scrapbook titled
Unstruggling Artist
, and an untitled scrapbook containing clippings and interspersed with correspondence, catalogs, and photographs.
Artwork consists of ink, pencil, and pen sketches; etchings and 2 etching plates; mixed media illustrations; and watercolors by unknown artists. There are also 9 sketchbooks, most likely by Alexander Brook, and a drawing by Miguel Covarrubius.
Photographs are of people, exhibition installations, and works of art. These include childhood photos of Alexander Brook and Gina Knee Brook, photos of the Brooks together in Savannah, Georgia and Sag Harbor, Long Island, as well as photos of Alexander Brook with friends, an artist model, at home, and in various studios. There are also photos of Peggy Bacon, Louis Bouché, Niles Spencer, and Jackson Pollock. Exhibition installations include a show at the Carnegie Institution and unidentified one man shows.
Provenance
The bulk of the papers were donated in several accretions by his Brook's wife, Gina Knee Brook, from 1981 to 1982. In 1982, she loaned a scrapbook for microfilming, which was later donated to the archives by Brook's son, Sandy Brook, in 1994. In 1985 and 1986, the Whitney Museum and Eloise Spaeth each donated a copy of Brook's typescript "Myself and Others."
Separated Materials note
The photocopied typescript, "Myself and Others," was microfilmed upon receipt and is available on reel 3928.
Related Archival Materials note
The Archives of American Art holds an oral history interview with Alexander Brook conducted by Paul Cummings, July 7-8, 1977. There is also substantial correspondence from Alexander Brook in the Peggy Bacon papers.
Processing Information note
The collection received a preliminary level of processing upon receipt of material, at which time extraneous periodicals were disposed of. The scrapbook originally loaned and later gifted to the archives was microfilmed onto reel 2435. The photocopy of the unpublished typescript, "Myself and Others," was microfilmed onto reel 3928 and disposed of. The collection was fully processed and described by Judy Ng in 2013 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

The scrapbook that was loaned for microfilming and later donated is also available on microfilm reel 2435.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Alexander Brook papers, 1900-1982. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

  • No downloads available