Soul theft portraiture by Gerald Leslie Brockhurst.

Nadia, bef. 1925

Gerald Leslie Brockhurst (Oct. 31, 1890 – May 4, 1978) was an English painter and etcher.

During the 30s and 40s he was celebrated as a portraitist, painting society figures such as Marlene Dietrich and the Duchess of Windsor. Today he is best known for his small etched prints of beautiful, idealized women – many of them modelled by his first and second wives. 

By the window, 1922
Amanda II, Phémie, 1923
Royal Academy of Arts
Merle Oberon, 1937

Born in the Edgbaston district of Birmingham, England on 31 Oct. 1890, son of a coal merchant, he soon showed precocious drawing skills and entered the Birmingham School of Art at age 12. A pupil at the Royal Academy Schools in 1907, he won the gold medal and a travelling scholarship in 1913, enabling him to visit both France and Italy. This led to a closer study of such 15th century artists as Piero della Francesca, Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, whose work had an abiding influence on him. In 1914 he married for the first time to a Frenchwoman, Anaïs Folin, whom he used as the model for most of his early etchings of young womanhood (especially from 1920 till 1934).

Nadejda, 1924
Royal Academy of Arts
Aglaia, 1926
Royal Academy of Arts
Portrait of Hermione, c. 1914

In September 1914 Brockhurst and his new wife, Anaïs Folin, embarked on a tour throughout France and Italy. This trip provided the artist with his first direct contact with the work of the Italian masters, particularly those of the quattrocento. The influence of those works is evident in this painting, a highly striking portrait of Anaïs, which was subsequently given a fanciful title.
Delores, c. 1925

This is Pepita, the wife of the composer Bobby Hazleton Ross. Painted in half-length portrait against a stark rocky landscape and a vast sky, her direct pose and unflinching gaze are compelling. There is a tension in this gaze that holds the viewer’s attention but gives nothing away about the sitter or her character.
Brockhurst, Gerald Leslie; Faun (Mrs Constant Lambert),
circa 1931-1934
National Galleries of Scotland
By the Hills, circa 1939
National Galleries of Scotland

From 1915 to 1919 Brockhurst and his wife Anaïs lived in Ireland, where they were friendly with the artist Augustus John and his circle.

Though he tried his hand at etching in 1914, it was not until 1920 that he began his career as an etcher in earnest, eventually achieving success as both a printmaker and society portraitist. Brockhurst held his first important exhibition in 1919, in London, and after it was well received returned to live there.Throughout the 1930s he continued an increasingly successful career as a portrait artist… In New York, Brockhurst became both famous and rich with a series of society portraits but his printmaking output diminished, especially his etchings. He produced a few lithographs at the end of his career (around 1945). In 1951, he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member.

Woman in Black, 1935

The portrait is veiled in psychological obscurity. As with many of his sitters there is an unsettling mystery, tinged with melancholy. Brockhurst has presented his subject for scrutiny but does not attempt to penetrate her character. She is aloof and contained. The back label from 1954 names the sitter as Miss Van Damm, perhaps it’s Sheila Van Damm, a socialite and racing driver.
Ophelia, 1937
Royal Academy of Arts
Clytie, 1920–1924
Manchester Art Gallery
Portrait of Florence Forsyth. c. 1930
Dorette, c. 1930-1940
McLean Museum and Art Gallery – Inverclyde Council
Jeunesse Dorée, 1942
Royal Academy of Arts
Jeunesse doree, 1934
Lady Lever Art Gallery
La Tresse, 1925
Royal Academy of Arts
Una, 1929
Royal Academy of Arts
Portrait of a Woman, unknown date.

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