||Romaine Brooks (1874-1970) is a vigorous female artist at the turn-of-the-century who specialized in portraiture. This thesis is to focus on her three works in 1923-24: "Self-portrait (1923)," "Peter, A Young English Girl (1923-24)" and "Una, Lady Troubridge (1924)." These works respectively portray Brooks, English painter Gluck and Una, who dress themselves with white shirts and black coats, revealing masculinity by heterogeneous extents. Most researches interpret these works through cross-dressing, lesbian identity, lesbian image, female masculinity, transgender. However, most of the researches omit to clarify what "gender transgression" meant in the 1920s and its relation with lesbian identity. Several layers are, as a result, neglected. Using "lesbian" as the theoretical framework to interpret their costume ignores historical particularity, variables when Brooks created these portraits, and contextualization of portraiture.|
Thus, "female masculinity" better describes these three works, for the variety of the concept uncovers possibilities in interpretation. On the spectrum of female masculinity, Brooks, Gluck and Una separately play crucial roles together with their relation with the society. Brooks’’s masculinity corresponds to the fact that how Brooks was regarded as a serious and orthodox artist; Una’’s masculinity reflects the fashion features in 1920s; as for Gluck, her masculinity is at the edge of the spectrum. From the aspect of transgender, Gluck, wearing only male costume all her life, well correspond to the definition of cross-dressing nowadays, but at that time in public reception, her masculinity turns out to be a symbol of professional.
Based on the biography of Romaine Brooks, the first chapter gives a detailed introduction to her lifeand works. Through analyzing Brooks’’s early works and singling out two elements-nudity and balcony, I examine her efforts in continuing tradition and making innovation about the nude, space, and gender. The second chapter attempts to rebuild the contemporary fashion history for women in the context of England and France in the 1920s and to place all protagonists back to their historical positions, which accordingly reveal the complex history of the seemingly ordinary clothing and accessories. I also trace back dandy portraits in the end of the 19th century to point to the relation between the styles both in Brooks’s works and in works of male artists of the time, to examine the tradition of representation, and to discuss the richness of this tradition. In the third chapter, two methodologies are provided: one is the application of sexuality theory, which indicates the flaws in previous researches which ahistorically and exclusively employ concepts such as lesbian, identity, visibility in analyzing Brooks’s works. This chapter turns to female masculinity as a new perspective to various interpretations. The other method is looking at the portraiture and self-portraiture in the context of art history. Educational system, exhibiting space, and art commentary disclose female artists’ opportunities and limitations in the context of the early 20th century. This thesis analyzes the professionalism in Brooks’s portraits and, furthermore, extends the scope to portrait photography so as to take a closer look on how Gluck “portraits” their professional images through photography.
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