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

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

Brooks, James, 1906-1992


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 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Six interviews with James Brooks are in the form of published and unpublished transcripts; a seventh is a sound recording with no known transcript.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 Airport 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.

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.


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

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.

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.

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.