as part of the new interest in psychology… If she were less of an individual, less truly aware of her own aloneness and the personal role art played in her life, she might be counted a surrealist or be fitted with some other useful title. But her modernity lies not in a pictorial method or a school, but in her tenacious adherence to the right to be herself, to fight her own psychic battles…(Breeskin, 1986:18)
Here Brooks’s traditional pictorial conventions are excused on the grounds that her modernism resides in her quest to explore her own tortured individuality through her art. In other words, she imposes her own emotional state rather than her style on her sitters. Of course, this interpretation is based upon an earlier Romantic conception of the artist wherein authenticity and sincerity become the most important kinds of truth (Battersby, 1990:13).10 As Adelyn Breeskin explains:
While this sort of special pleading argues that Brooks’s portraits are not derivative in that she, the artist, is the real subject of the portrait, this viewing of Brooks through an older (i.e., pre-Modernist) Romantic paradigm once again conflates her art and life and implies that Brooks was translating her lived experience rather than creatively imagining new forms. Even the tough rhetoric of individualism cannot gloss over the fact that Brooks cannot be significantly original on these terms. A more creative rereading of the original/copy opposition is needed.