A Finding Aid to the Alexander Brook Papers in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.brooalex
Creators:
Brook, Alexander, 1898-1980
Dates:
1900-1982
Languages:
English
The collection is in English.
Physical Description:
4.3 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of painter Alexander Brook measure 4.3 linear feet and date from 1900-1982. Found within the papers are biographical material; personal and professional correspondence; writings; personal business records; printed material; scrapbooks; artwork; and photographs of Brook, his family and friends, and his work.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of painter Alexander Brook measure 4.3 linear feet and date from 1900-1982. Found within the papers are biographical material; personal and professional correspondence; writings; personal business records; printed material; scrapbooks; artwork; and photographs of Brook, his family and friends, and his work.
Biographical materials include an address book, award certificates, curriculum vitae, marriage and divorce documents, passports, biographical information on Brook's wife, Gina Knee Brook, and 4 interview transcripts.
Correspondence is primarily with Brook's family, friends, fellow artists, and business associates discussing personal relationships, teaching opportunities, art sales, and exhibitions. Included in this series are letters to Brook's second wife, Gina Knee Brook. Additional correspondents include Brook's children, Belinda and Sandy (Alexander) Brook, Peggy Bacon, artists Niles Spencer and George Biddle, and writer Haniel Long.
Writings by Brook consist of reminiscences, 6 essays, a lecture, a memorium to Catherine Brett, 6 short stories, 2 notebooks, and miscellaneous notes. Writings by others consist of a notebook by Mrs. Beeton containing humorous recipes, an essay, 2 memoirs, poetry, and a short story from unknown authors.
Personal business records include sales invoices, tax returns noting income from sales of artwork, and receipts for various art supplies.
Printed material includes brochures, chapbooks, clippings, city guides, exhibition announcements and catalogs, periodicals, and miscellaneous printed material.
There are two scrapbooks, a clippings scrapbook titled Unstruggling Artist, and an untitled scrapbook containing clippings and interspersed with correspondence, catalogs, and photographs.
Artwork consists of ink, pencil, and pen sketches; etchings and 2 etching plates; mixed media illustrations; and watercolors by unknown artists. There are also 9 sketchbooks, most likely by Alexander Brook, and a drawing by Miguel Covarrubius.
Photographs are of people, exhibition installations, and works of art. These include childhood photos of Alexander Brook and Gina Knee Brook, photos of the Brooks together in Savannah, Georgia and Sag Harbor, Long Island, as well as photos of Alexander Brook with friends, an artist model, at home, and in various studios. There are also photos of Peggy Bacon, Louis Bouché, Niles Spencer, and Jackson Pollock. Exhibition installations include a show at the Carnegie Institution and unidentified one man shows.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 8 series.
  • Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1907-1979 (14 folders; Box 1)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1930-1975 (0.6 linear feet; Box 1)
  • Series 3: Writings, circa 1921-1975 (0.5 linear feet; Box 1-2)
  • Series 4: Personal Business Records, circa 1931-1982 (0.3 linear feet; Box 2)
  • Series 5: Printed Material, 1918-1982 (1.4 linear feet; Box 2-3)
  • Series 6: Scrapbooks, circa 1935-1975 (0.4 linear feet; Box 3, 5)
  • Series 7: Artwork, circa 1935-1975 (0.4 linear feet; Box 4)
  • Series 8: Photographs, circa 1900-1980 (0.6 linear feet; Box 4)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Alexander Brook (1898-1980) was a painter and art instructor who lived and worked in Woodstock, Sag Harbor, and New York City, New York, and Savannah, Georgia.
Brook was born in Brooklyn, New York to Russian immigrants Eudoxia Gelescu and Onufri Brook. After contracting polio at the age of twelve, he remained bed-ridden for a year and his formal schooling was suspended. At this time, he began to show an interest in art and began receiving his first lessons in painting. In 1914, he enrolled in the Art Students League where he won scholarships and cultivated friendships with other art students, including Louis Bouché, Niles Spencer, and Peggy Bacon, whom he married in 1920.
Brook and Bacon's two children, Belinda and Alexander Bacon Brook, were born in 1920 and 1922, and the couple divided their time between a summer house in Woodstock and a series of apartments in New York City. Their circle of artist friends included the Bouchés, Niles Spencer, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Andrew Dasburg, and many of the other artists who lived and worked in Woodstock. Brook and Bacon continued to produce art, with Brook focusing on his painting, and Bacon publishing her illustrations and prints in nationally syndicated magazines.
In the 1920s, Brook also wrote articles for The Arts and caught the attention of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. She invited him to promote and organize exhibits for her Whitney Studio Club, and from 1923 to 1927, he worked as assistant director of the Club, which was later to become the Whitney Museum of Art. By the late 1920s, Brook's realist paintings of landscapes, still lifes, and posed figures of women were gaining wide recognition and he was given his first retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1929, at the age of thirty-one. In the early 1930s, within the span of three years, Brook exhibited one man shows at the ACA, Valentine, Charles Daniel, and Downtown Galleries in New York City, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1931.
In 1938, Brook moved to Savannah, Georgia and began visiting and painting realist scenes based on visits to the city's oldest black neighborhoods. When Brook's marriage with Bacon ended in 1940, he continued to live in Savannah with his second wife, Libby Berger. After his second marriage ended, he returned to New York in 1942 to teach at the Art Students League and, during World War II, served as a correspondent and artist for the Army based out of Panama.
In 1944, Brook returned to Savannah with his third wife, the artist Gina Knee Brook. Through the mid-1940s, Brook continued to exhibit his works, primarily through the Rehn Gallery, contributed articles and essays to art journals, and was commissioned to paint two covers for the Saturday Evening Post. In 1948, the Brooks purchased and moved to their last home in Sag Harbor, Long Island. Believing realist work was no longer well received in critical and contemporary art circles, Brook slowly retreated from the art world, exhibiting his last solo show at Knoedler Galleries in 1952, and retiring from painting in 1966. Brook died on February 26, 1980.

Administration
Existence and Location of Copies
The scrapbook in this collection is available on 35 mm microfilm reel 2435 at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.
Processing Information
The collection received a preliminary level of processing upon receipt of material, at which time extraneous periodicals were disposed of. The scrapbook originally loaned and later gifted to the archives was microfilmed onto reel 2435. The photocopy of the unpublished typescript, "Myself and Others," was microfilmed onto reel 3928 and disposed of. The collection was fully processed and described by Judy Ng in 2013 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Separated Materials
The photocopied typescript, "Myself and Others," was microfilmed upon receipt and is available on reel 3928.
Author
Judy Ng
Sponsor
Processing of this collection was funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The bulk of the papers were donated in several accretions by his Brook's wife, Gina Knee Brook, from 1981 to 1982. In 1982, she loaned a scrapbook for microfilming, which was later donated to the archives by Brook's son, Sandy Brook, in 1994. In 1985 and 1986, the Whitney Museum and Eloise Spaeth each donated a copy of Brook's typescript "Myself and Others."

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Alexander Brook papers, 1900-1982. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Conditions Governing Use
The Alexander Brook papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Related Materials
The Archives of American Art holds an oral history interview with Alexander Brook conducted by Paul Cummings, July 7-8, 1977. There is also substantial correspondence from Alexander Brook in the Peggy Bacon papers.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Post-impressionism (Art) -- United States -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painting, Modern -- 20th century -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Watercolors Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Transcriptions Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketchbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Etchings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Illustrations Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bacon, Peggy, 1895-1987 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Biddle, George, 1885-1973 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Brett, Catherine Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Covarrubias, Miguel, 1904-1957 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pollock, Jackson, 1912-1956 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Spencer, Niles, 1893-1952 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Knee, Gina, 1898-1982 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bouché, Louis, 1896-1969 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/