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Brockhurst, Gerald Leslie

(b Birmingham, 31 Oct 1890; d Franklin Lakes, NJ, 4 May 1978)


English painter and printmaker. He attended the Birmingham School of Art, where he showed a prodigious talent for drawing.  In 1907 he entered the Royal Academy Schools, London, attaining, among other awards, the Gold Medal and Travelling Scholarship in 1913; the latter took him to Paris and Italy, where he studied the works of the Italian 15th-century painters. Piero della Francesca and Leonardo remained important influences.

From 1915 to 1919 Brockhurst and his first wife, Ana´s, lived in Ireland, where he was introduced by Oliver St John Gogarty to Augustus John and his circle.  Augustus John’s painting style was influenced by contemporary French art's simplicity of color and forms.

In 1919 the Chenil Galleries, London, held the first significant exhibition of Brockhurst’s work, and the artist returned to England.  His work echoes the Italian Renaissance style and method in its subtle tones. His Traditionalist style was seen as a reaction to 19th century Romanticism.

Brockhurst always saw his etchings as serious works of art.  He was an artist who ‘captured’ beautiful women and whose refined style and enigmatic subjects entrance the observer.  Brockhurst's exotically named and fashionable women seem to provide images remote from the 20th century and that of Renaissance Italy.

Brockhurst's ambivalent portrayals of women evoke Renaissance artists whose subjects sometime appear as dangerous or seductive and not always ‘appealing in the obvious subject matter of idealized and beautiful women but captivating in Brockhurst's coolly sensual draftsmanship evoking the observer's attraction.’

His mature etchings, usually based on his earlier paintings, exhibit full modeling effects, strong highlights, and rich tonalities. Whether painted or etched, his highly detailed, classicized, portraits generally place more emphasis on the sitters' surface appearance than on the underlying character and emotional state.  When not working on commission, Brockhurst's primary models were his first wife Ana´s Folin and, after 1931, Kathleen (Dorette) Woodward who became his second wife in 1947.

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