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Fair Dreams: The Art of Gerald Leslie Brockhurst


Price Tower Arts Center presents Fair Dreams: The Art of Gerald Leslie Brockhurst from February 20 to April 11, 2004. The exhibition encompasses Brockhurst's early work from 1914 to his only existing self-portrait from 1949, the year he became a United States citizen. (right: Dorette, 1932, etching)

Curator Kara Hurst said "Brockhurst's fine detailed work is quite remarkable, as are the breadth and scope of his images, from his portraiture to the detailed backgrounds in his compositions. Visitors will marvel at Brockhurst's famous etchings, lithographs, drawings and paintings." A local Brockhurst art collector is lending three oil paintings to complement the exhibition, as well as a variety of Brockhurst's personal items.

"Price Tower Arts Center truly represents one of the most innovative museum projects in this part of the country," says Betty Price, executive director of the Oklahoma Arts Council. "With its dynamic programming goals and one-of-a-kind assets, it has unlimited potential."

Fair Dreams: The Art of Gerald Leslie Brockhurst comes from the collection of the late William P. Brumfield of Baton Rouge, La., which includes all but two of the prints Brockhurst executed in his lifetime. The exhibition was organized by Smith-Kramer Fine Art Services, Kansas City, Mo., from the collections of the Louisiana Art and Science Museum, Baton Rouge, La. The exhibition is made possible with assistance from the Oklahoma Arts Council, The National Endowment for the Arts, and Tulsa World & Lorton Family.


About the artist

British-American artist Gerald Leslie Brockhurst (1890-1978) is regarded as one of the 20th century's finest portrait artists. However, the fame of a painter can be as fleeting as that of any other celebrity. This has been true of the work of Gerald Leslie Brockhurst. In the 1930s and 1940s Brockhurst was probably the most celebrated portraitist, first in England, then in America. He specialized in portraying beautiful women, often-famous personalities such as Marlene Dietrich and the Duchess of Windsor.

Probably no artist suffers a quicker decline in popularity than a fashionable portraitist. Posthumously there is little interest among collectors or museums in the work and most of the portraits remain with families of the sitters, disappearing from public view. Such has been the case with Brockhurst paintings.

Fortunately, Brockhurst's critical reputation has been sustained during the last thirty-plus years by interest in his technically brilliant etchings, which have always been admired by print collectors and connoisseurs. Although Brockhurst began working in etching in 1904, it was not until 1920 that he produced his first editioned print, a portrait of the Irish poet, Francis Mac Namara. He executed eighteen additional etchings that year, however, some were not printed in editions.

Printmaking had become a serious aspect of his art career. In 1921 he was elected to membership in the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers. However, as his etching technique became more meticulous and time consuming, he produced fewer and fewer plates each year. Brockhurst's most famous etching, Adolescence, was published in 1932. In it Brockhurst overcame all difficulties of depicting on a metal plate the reflection of a nude figure in a mirror and produced his largest and most ambitious etching. This extraordinary image is regarded by many art scholars as one of the masterpieces of 20th century etching. In 1939, Brockhurst and his model for Adolescence, Dorette, left England and settled in the United States. Despite his fame abroad the American art establishment seems to have ignored the artist. However the commissioned portraits continued in America. During his lifetime he painted over six hundred portraits.

Brockhurst normally worked slowly and painstakingly, whether at painting or printmaking. This required considerable patience of his sitters. Brockhurst's most famous plates go far beyond ordinary line etchings. He achieved a stipple effect to give the appearance of background and flesh tones that is unsurpassed in its refinement and brilliant craftsmanship. It has been said that many people first think Brockhurst's prints are aquatints, however, they are etchings done dot by dot, line by line.

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