‘All or Nothing: The Many Faces of Romaine Brooks is an exciting new reading of the oh-so glamorous life of one of the most transgressive sublimely opinionated gay figures of the 20th century. Think K.D. Lang meets I Kissed A Girl. The author [Cassandra Langer] reexamines Brooks’ hot gender-bender romances with Winnaretta Singer, Renée Vivien, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Ida Rubenstein, and Natalie Barney. Drawing upon newly found primary source material she explodes the long held myth regarding the nature of Brooks’ relationship with Natalie Barney. The book paints a complex psychological and sociological portrait of an artist frequently at odds with herself and inevitably at odds with her times whose circle includes Harold Acton, Djuna Barnes, Bernard Berenson, Jean Cocteau, Elsie de Wolfe, Janet Flanner, Radclyffe Hall, Somerset Maugham, Robert de Montesquieu, Man Ray, Gertrude Stein, Uberto Strozzi, Alice B. Toklas, Una Troubridge, Carl Van Vechten, and just about everyone who was anyone in Paris from 1905 through 1935. And Langer discusses Brooks’ quest for perfection in her portraits and drawings as well as her aesthetics inspired by the groundbreaking music of Debussy as well as her experiences as an American living in Mussolini’s Italy during World War II and beyond concluding with how Brooks creates her’ Queer Heroic—and how we now perform gender-the very essence of queerness today.’
Lesbian Art Herstory: American Painter Romaine Brooks (1874 – 1970) worked in Paris and on Capri in the 1920s. She best known for her images of women in androgynous or masculine dress having, and has among others painted a painting of a young boyish looking girl titled “Peter, A Young English Girl”, 1923-24, which is included in the above slide show (3:21). The slideshow also includes some of her portraits of beautiful women, a series of her mysterious symbolic paintings and a couple of self-portraits (0:12 Self-Portrait, ca. 1905 and 3:11 Self-Portrait, 1923). The longest and most important relationship of Brooks’s life was with Natalie Clifford Barney, whom she met around the start of World War I in Paris. From 1920 to 1924, most of Brooks’s subjects were of women who were in Barney’s social circle or who visited her salon.
American art historian Cassandra Langer says about the Hide/Seek exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery:
‘Jonathan Katz and David Ward’s show at the National Portrait Gallery is open. Hide and Seek features Romaine Brook’s work and Jonathan Weinberg’s show at the archives also features a lovely Van Vechten photograph of her. Shows run through Feb.  for those of you interested in getting to D.C. before it closes and there is a catalogue available from Amazon at a nice discount. It’s chocked full of good information and fresh interpretations’.
The Editorial Review Of The Catalogue
Amazon.com’s editorial review of the exhibition catalogue reads: ”Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture’, companion volume to an exhibition of the same name at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, traces the defining presence of same-sex desire in American portraiture through a seductive selection of more than 140 full-color illustrations, drawings, and portraits from leading American artists. Arcing from the turn of the twentieth century, through the emergence of the modern gay liberation movement in 1969, the tragedies of the AIDS epidemic, and to the present, Hide/Seek openly considers what has long been suppressed or tacitly ignored, even by the most progressive sectors of our society: the influence of gay and lesbian artists in creating American modernism. [...]
Bringing together for the first time new scholarship in the history of American sexuality and new research in American portraiture, Hide/Seek charts the heretofore hidden impact of gay and lesbian artists on American art and portraiture and creates the basis for the necessary reassessment of the careers of major American artists — both gay and straight — as well as of portraiture itself.’
Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture
by Jonathan D. Katz and David C. Ward
Publisher: Smithsonian Books (November 2, 2010)