Skip to main content

James Brooks and Charlotte Park papers, 1909-2010, bulk 1930-2010

Brooks, James, 1906-1992

Painter

Collection Information

Size: 20.1 linear feet

Summary: The papers of Abstract Expressionist painters James Brooks and Charlotte Park measure 18.7 linear feet and are dated 1909-2010, bulk 1930-2010. Included are biographical material, correspondence, interviews, writings, subject files, printed material, artwork, photographs, personal business records, exhibition records and a sound recording documenting James and Charlotte Brooks' painting careers, interests, professional and personal activities, Charlotte's role as executor of James' estate, and the James Brooks and Charlotte Park Brooks Foundation. There is a 1.4 linear foot addition to this collection donated in 2017 that includes 58 "week-at-a-glance" appointment books, three journals and one address/ telephone book of Charlotte Park; a hand written chronology with significant dates and notes; postcards and exhibition announcements sent to Charlotte and James; doodles; and a sketch, possibly by Don Kingman.
Biographical materials include biographical notes and documents such as copies of birth and death certificates, curricula vitae, family history. Educational records are from Southern Methodist University and documentation of flight training courses at New York University. Brooks' military service in World War II is well documented by United States Army records with related correspondence. Also found is extensive documentation of his death and funeral.
Professional and personal correspondence is addressed to Brooks, the couple, and to Charlotte Park during the later years of Brooks' life when she managed his affairs. A significant amount of correspondence is categorized as art, autograph requests, personal, and teaching; also include is general correspondence that overlaps all categories. Art correspondence with museums, galleries, collectors, artists, and friends concerns exhibitions, Brooks' work, and invitations to exhibit, speak, or serve as a juror. Of note is the correspondence with Samuel M. Kootz Gallery. The personal correspondence is mainly social, and teaching correspondence consists largely of requests that he teach in summer programs, serve as a visiting artist/critic.
Six interviews with Brooks are in the form of published and unpublished transcripts; a seventh is a sound recording with no known transcript. Charlotte Park participates in one interview.
Writings by Brooks are statements about his work and a tribute to Ilya Bolotowsky. Among the writings by others about Brooks are a catalog essay, academic papers, and lecture; also found are a few short pieces on miscellaneous topics. Three diaries include brief entries regarding his work, exhibitions, and activities.
Subject files maintained by Brooks concerning organizations, exhibitions, mural projects, a commission and teaching document his professional activities, relationships and interests. Personal business records concern appraisals, conservation, gifts, insurance, loans, sales, shipping, and storage of artwork. Gallery records include agreements, consignments, lists, and receipts. Also, there are accounts for lettering work and personal income tax returns.
Printed material is mostly exhibition announcements, invitations, catalogs, and checklists, as well as articles and reviews. The majority are about/mention James Brooks or include reproductions of his work; some concern artist friends, former students, and others.
Artwork by Brooks consists of pencil and ink drawings, two sketchbooks, and "telephone doodles." Other artists include Adolph Gottlieb (ink drawing of sculpture), Philip Guston (three pencil drawings of Brooks), and William King (two silhouettes of Brooks).
Photographic materials (photographs, digital prints, negatives, slides, and color transparencies) provide extensive documentation of Brooks' artwork and, to a lesser extent, exhibitions.There are pictures of Brooks as a very young boy, though the most views of him date from the 1930s through 1980s, and with friends. Places include Brooks' homes and studios in Montauk, New York and the Springs, East Hampton, New York; travel to Maine, Oregon and California. Views of the Middle East from World War II show Brooks with colleagues, local people engaged in daily activities, and scenery. Also of note are a copy print of "The Irascibles" by Nina Leen, and attendees at the dedication of "Flight" dining in view of Brook's LaGuardia Airport mural.
The papers relating relating to Charlotte Park document her professional and personal career as an Abstract Expressionist painter, art teacher and wife of James Brooks through correspondence, personal business records, exhibition records, printed material, and photographs. In addition, this series documents artwork in the estate of James Brooks and posthumous exhibitions. Twelve years younger than her husband, Park began handling business matters for him as he aged and developed Alzheimer's disease. She also served as his executor. In the 1990s, a curator assumed management of the artwork and loans for exhibitions. After the James Brooks and Charlotte Park Brooks Foundation was established in 2000, its director handled most business activities. Some copies of Foundation minutes and correspondence are found among Park's papers.

Biographical/Historical Note

James Brooks (1906-1992) and Charlotte Park (1919-2010) were Abstract Expressionist painters in East Hampton, N.Y. Brooks studied under Kimon Nicolaides and Boardman Robinson. He served as an artist in the War Department and during the Depression he painted murals for federal art programs. Park was an art teacher. Brooks and Park married in 1947.

Provenance

The majority of the collection was donated in 2013 by the James Brooks and Charlotte Brooks Foundation and an additional 1.4 linear feet donated 2017 by the Foundation. In 1979 James Brooks donated most of the material lent for microfilming in 1969.

Related Materials

Also among the Archives of American Art's holdings are letters from James Brooks and Sean Scully, 1980-1989 addressed to Theodora ["Teddy"] S. Greenbaum, and an oral history interview with James Brooks conducted by Dorothy Seckler, 1965 June 10 and June 12.