Gerald Leslie Brockhurst (1890-1978)
Gerald Leslie Brockhurst was one of the most successful and fashionable portrait painters working in early twentieth-century Britain
Brockhurst trained at the Birmingham School of Art from 1901 and by 1907 had enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools. In 1913 Brockhurst won a travelling scholarship which enabled him to study the old masters in France and Italy, in particular the work of Leonardo Da Vinci and Piero della Francesco whose stylistic and compositional ideas had a lasting effect on the artist’s career. In 1914 Brockhurst married Anais (a Frenchwoman whom Brockhurst presumably met whilst exploring that region) and the following year they moved to Ireland where they remained until 1919. Whilst in Ireland they befriended established painters such as Augustus John whose influence can be seen in the rugged handling of paint in ‘Ireland, 1916’ [Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow].
In the 1920s, most likely in response to the austerity following the Second World War, Brockhurst began to champion the field of etching, these works paving the way for his later portraits which betray an intelligence for light and shade which only a master etcher could attain. By 1930 Brockhurst had returned to painting and notable commissions from this period include the notorious British socialite Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll (1912-1993) [Tate Britain] and Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor (1896-1986) [National Portrait Gallery]. In 1939 Brockhurst moved to America where he remained for the rest of his career and one year later Anais filed for a divorce.
The present work can be dated to between 1915 and 1920 and is an example of the artist experimenting with compositional ideas, more specifically the positioning of his model’s head and its study from varying viewpoints. The slightly raised chin and suggestion of downcast eyes is quite reminiscent of his portrait of Anais exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery’s ‘Brockhurst’ in 1987 (no.14) painted c.1915-16.