Gerald Brockhurst Biography

Gerald Brockhurst




Painter and printmaker Gerald Leslie Brockhurst was born October 31, 1890 in Birmingham, England. Exhibiting remarkable artistic skill from an early age, he was enrolled at the Birmingham School of Art at just age twelve, producing his first etching in 1904, and by 1907 he was a pupil at the Royal Academy Schools. He earned a travelling scholarship in 1913 to study and live in Italy and France, where he found inspiration in the drawings and paintings of Old Masters. The styles of Renaissance artists such as da Vinci and Botticelli would remain a major influence throughout his career, especially in his portraits. 

While abroad he met French artist Anaïs Folin and they married in 1914, moving to Ireland the following year. Folin would be the primary model for much of Brockhurt's work until their separation in the late 1930s. In 1919 he had his first major solo show in London, with his ethereal etchings of women against distant landscapes - similar in style to his 16th century idols but with a hint of the Surrealist in the compositions - especially gaining popularity. By 1920 he had begun a successful career as a portraitist, soon taking commissions from celebrities, politicians, and society figures. In this capacity his etchings were as popular as his paintings, and many of his most famous portraits are in the small, black and white format more closely associated with architectural and landscape imagery at the time. In 1921 he helped form the Society of Graphic Art in London and was elected to the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers.

In 1932 Brockhurst produced his most famous etching, "Adolescence," which featured a young nude seated on a bed facing her reflection in a mirror. The large format etching was considered at the time one of the most important examples of printmaking in the 20th century, owning to its complexity and the deft naturalness the image conveyed. In 1937, he was elected to the Royal Academy. By then, his reputation as the leading English portraitist lent him a celebity of his own.

His marriage to Anaïs Folin ended in 1937 as word of his affair with teenage model Kathleen Woodward - the muse for "Adolescence," who he "renamed" Dorette -  spread. Two years later he and Woodward moved to the United States, settling in New Jersey. Though he continued to find work as a portraitist, there was less interest in the subject in the U.S. art market. Despite this, he continued to paint, rarely working on etchings, and in 1951 he was elected to the National Academy of Design. 

Gerald Brockhurst died in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, on May 4, 1978. His work continued to inspire printmakers, and was remarked on by founder of experimental printmaking workshop Atelier 17, Stanley William Hayter, who said that people frequently mistook Brockhurt's work for aquatint, but that they were indeed "etchings done dot by dot, line by line." (Abe M. Tahir, Jr., art consultant and owner of Tahir Art Gallery)