Skip to main content

James Brooks papers, 1909-2010, bulk 1930-2010

James Brooks papers, 1909-2010, bulk 1930-2010

Brooks, James, 1906-1992

Painter

Collection Information

Size: 18.7 linear feet

Summary: The papers of Abstract Expressionist painter James Brooks measure 18.7 linear feet and are dated 1909-2010, bulk 1930-2010. Correspondence, subject files, personal business records, printed material and a sound recording document his painting career, interests, professional and personal activities. Also found are biographical materials, interviews, writings, and art work. The collection also includes papers of his wife, abstract expressionist painter Charlotte Park, regarding her painting career, personal life, activities as executor of James Brooks' estate, and some material concerning the James Brooks and Charlotte Park Brooks Foundation.

Biographical/Historical Note

James Brooks (1906-1992) was an Abstract Expressionist painter in East Hampton, New York. 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. He was married to artist Charlotte Park Brooks.

Provenance

The James Brooks papers, donated by James Brooks in 1979, included most of the material borrowed for microfilming in 1969. The majority of the collection, including papers of his artist wife Charlotte Park, was donated by the James Brooks and Charlotte Park Brooks Foundation in 2013.

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.

A Finding Aid to the James Brooks Papers, 1909-2010, bulk 1930-2010, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.broojame
Author
Finding aid prepared by Catherine S. Gaines
Biographical/Historical note
James Brooks (1906-1992) was an Abstract Expressionist painter in East Hampton, New York. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Brooks spent his childhood in Colorado, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Texas. He begn drawing as a young boy, finding inspiration in magazine illustrations and comic strips. Before moving to New York City in 1926, he studied at Southern Methodist University (1923-1924) and at the Dallas Art Institute.
In New York, Brooks studied illustration at the Grand Central Art School. After exposure to museums led him to differentiate between illustration and fine art, Brooks enrolled at Art Students League. During this period he supported himself by doing lettering for magazine advertisements. From 1936-1942 he participated in the WPA Federal Art Project, executing murals at Woodside Library, Queens, New York (destroyed); the Post Office, Little Falls, New Jersey; and his famous
Flight
at LaGuardia Airport's Marine Air Terminal (painted over in the 1950s and restored in 1980).
During World War II Brooks served in the United States Army as an art correspondent in Cairo. When at the Office of Special Services, Washington, DC, he met Charlotte Park who worked there as a graphic artist and later became his wife. The couple moved to New York City in 1945 and married in 1947. Brooks resumed friendships with artists he knew from the WPA including Philip Guston, Bradley Walker Tomlin, and Jackson Pollock. Brooks and Park were especially close with Pollock and Lee Krasner; after they moved to Long Island, Brooks and Park, soon followed, first to Montauk and later to the Springs, East Hampton, New York.
By the late 1940s, Brooks had turned away from figural painting in the social realist style and moved toward abstraction. In the early 1950s, he was experimenting with enamel, gouache, and diluted oil paints, staining various grounds in ways that produced interesting shapes, adding spontaneous splashes of color over which he painted more deliberately. In the 1960s he switched to acrylics, leading to wider use of color and broader strokes.
Peridot Gallery presented Brooks' first solo exhibition in 1949. He helped organize and participated in the famous
Ninth Street Show
of 1951, earning critical acclaim. This assured him a place in two of the Museum of Modern Art's most important exhibitions of the period,
Twelve Americans
(1956) and
New American Painting
(1958). He showed at the Stable Gallery, Kootz Gallery, Martha Jackson Gallery and others. During his lifetime Brooks enjoyed five traveling retrospective exhibitions.
Prizes and awards included Carnegie Institute's
Pittsburgh International Exhibition
5th prize for painting (1952), The Art Institue of Chicago's
62nd American Exhibition
Logan Medal and Prize for Painting (1957) and
64th American Exhibition
Harris Prize (1961), The National Arts Club Medal (1985), and a citation of appreciation for
Flight
from The North Beach Club Marine Air Terminal, LaGuardia Airport (1986).
Brooks taught for nearly three decades: drawing at Columbia University (1947-1948) and lettering at Pratt Institute (1948-1955); was a visiting critic, Yale University (1955-1960), University of Pennsylvania (1971-1972), and Cooper Union (1975); and served on the Queens College faculty (1966-1969). In addition, he was an artist-in-residence at The American Academy in Rome (1963), the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1969), and a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant (1973).
Brooks developed Alzheimer's disease around 1985 and died in East Hampton, New York in 1992.
Charlotte Park (1919-2010), an art teacher and painter who lived and worked in East Hampton, New York, was married to James Brooks. She graduated from the Yale School of Fine Art (1939) and during World War II, when working in Washington, D.C., she met James Brooks. They moved to New York City in 1945, where she studied with Australian artist Wallace Harrison. Park taught children's art classes at several private schools in the early 1950s and at the Museum of Modern Art, 1955-1967.
Park's approach to Abstract Expressionism featured curved or linear shapes with vibrant colors and dynamic brushstrokes. Tanager Gallery presented her first solo show in 1957 and her work was included in numerous group exhibitions from the 1950s through 2000s, mainly in New York City and Long Island. After Park's second solo exhibition, held in 1973 at Elaine Benson Gallery, Bridgehampton, New York, interest in her work revived; other one-person shows followed at Guild Hall (1979), Ingber Gallery (1980), and paired with James Brooks at Louise Himelfarb Gallery. The National Institute of Arts and Letters honored Park with its Art Award in 1974. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Parrish Art Museum, Guild Hall Museum, Telfair Museum of Art, and in many private collections.
Charlotte Park died in 2010.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged in 11 series:
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1924-1995 (Box 1, OV 19; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1928-1995 (Boxes 1-3; 1.7 linear feet)
Series 3: Interviews, 1965-1990 (Box 3; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 4: Writings, 1952-1999 (Box 3; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 5: Diaries, 1975-1984 (Box 3; 0.1 linear feet)
Series 6: Subject Files, 1926-2001 (Boxes 3-5, OV 20; 2.0 linear feet)
Series 7: Personal Business Records, 1932-1992 (Boxes 5-6; 1.0 linear feet)
Series 8: Printed Material, 1928-1992 (Boxes 6-11, OV 21-OV 22; 4.8 linear feet)
Series 9: Artwork, 1930s-1992 (Box 11; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 10: Photographic Materials, 1909-2000s (Boxes 11-15; 4.1 linear feet)
Series 11: Charlotte Park papers, 1930s-2010 (Boxes 15-18, OV 23; 3.6 linear feet)
Scope and Contents note
The papers of Abstract Expressionist painter James Brooks measure 18.7 linear feet and are dated 1909-2010, bulk 1930-2010. Correspondence, subject files, personal business records, printed material and a sound recording document his painting career, interests, professional and personal activities. Also found are biographical materials, interviews, writings, and art work. The collection also includes papers of his wife, abstract expressionist painter Charlotte Park, regarding her painting career, personal life, activities as executor of James Brooks' estate, and some material concerning the James Brooks and Charlotte Park Brooks Foundation.
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 James 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 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 Ariport mural.
Charlotte Park papers document the professional career and personal life of the 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.
Provenance
The James Brooks papers, donated by James Brooks in 1979, included most of the material borrowed for microfilming in 1969. The majority of the collection, including papers of his artist wife Charlotte Park, was donated by the James Brooks and Charlotte Park Brooks Foundation in 2013.
Separated Materials note
Correspondence, interview transcripts, photographs, and printed material were loaned by James Brooks for microfilming in 1969 (reel N69-132). With the exception of an address book, a scrapbook, and a few photographs, Brooks donated almost all of the loan in 1979.
Related Archival Materials note
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.
Processing Information note
Portions of the collection received varying levels of processing after donation. The collection was partially microfilmed in the order in which it was received, except for the last donation from the James Brooks and Charlotte Park Brooks Foundation, which was not microfilmed. All previously filmed and unfilmed portions were merged, processed to a minimal level and a finding aid prepared in 2015 by Catherine S. Gaines.

Additional Forms Available

Microfilm reels N69-132 and 292-293 available for use at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.

ACCESS RESTRICTED; use requires written permission.

Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.

How to Cite This Collection

James Brooks papers, 1909-2010, bulk 1930-2010. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

  • No downloads available