The Eternal Masquerade: Prints and Paintings by Gerald Leslie Brockhurst (1890-1978) from the Jacob Burns Foundation, an exhibition chronicling the painter and printmaker’s work, is at the Georgia Museum of Art until Oct. 8.
Widely recognized as one of the most successful British portrait artists of the 20th century, Brockhurst produced works of some of the most prominent people of the time, including J. Paul Getty and the Duchess of Windsor.
“(He was) Britain’s most sought-after portraitist in the first half of the 20th century, or, as a writer for the New York Post observed in 1958, ‘the world’s most expensive portrait painter,'” said Romita Ray, curator of prints and drawings at the Georgia Museum of Art. “He mastered the powerful dialectic between the real and the imagined realms of the body on canvas and in print.”
Brockhurst was influenced by Pre-Raphaelite painting, which harked back to the Italian Renaissance, particularly painters Leonardo da Vinci and Piero della Francesca. A devoted modernist, Brockhurst mingled the two traditions in his portraits.
The museum also has a large archive of Brockhurst’s correspondences and other written records, ensuring continued research about his life and career.
Brockhurst was born in Birmingham, England, in 1890 as the youngest of four sons. At the age of 12, he entered the Birmingham School of Art, and by 17 he had won prizes for his paintings and drawings at the prestigious Royal Academy School in London, including the Royal Academy Gold Medal for General Excellence.
By 1914, Brockhurst had begun to explore the concept of etching. His first editioned print was that of Irish poet Francis MacNamara, finished in 1920, and one year later he was invited to join the prestigious Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers.
Brockhurst moved to the U.S. in 1947 and continued to enjoy a lucrative career as a portrait artist, though he never achieved the level of acclaim he had received in Britain. He died in New Jersey in 1978 at the age of 88.