Twentieth Century Artists in the Graves Gallery

Gerald Leslie Brockhurst

Gerald Brockhurst is best known for his portraits and etchings of glamorous women. Regarded from the age of twelve as ‘a young Botticelli’, he studied in England, France and Italy.

Brockhurst’s placement of a portrait within a surrounding landscape, recalls the work of Italian Renaissance masters, such as Leonardo da Vinci. Like Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, there is a sense of mystery and the unknown, which separates the viewer from the sitters. In Brockhurst’s portraits his sitters are given extra emphasis by their surroundings and are usually composed close-up, looking straight at you, positioned in shallow space, against a ledge, or against a blank background.

Brockhurst created his etchings in a mechanical way, created line by line and dot by dot. He added a very human, sensual touch however, simply by changing the pose, setting or costume he could seemingly transform the model into an entirely different person.

To add to the shroud of mystery and romance of the image, and to encourage the imagination of the viewer, Brockhurst would attach exotic titles such as, Ophelia, Viba, Xenia and Anais (Brockhursts given name to the sitter/painting on display in the Graves Art Gallery).

Whilst living in the UK in the 1930s and later in New York, Brockhurst became a fashionable portrait painter with famous sitters including Marlene Dietrich and the Duchess of Windsor. In retrospect he is regarded as an impressive portraitist and printmaker, yet surprisingly he has received little scholarly and popular attention.

Map link: Birmingham School of Art, where Gerald Leslie Brockhurst first studied»

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