James Brooks was one of the most widely celebrated painters of the 1950s New York School. Born in St. Louis, he grew up in Texas and attended Southern Methodist University from 1923 to 1925. He arrived in New York in the mid-1920s, and supported himself as a commercial artist while studying painting at the Art Students League. Brooks worked in the popular realist style of the day, exhibiting in various Manhattan galleries and participating in the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration, for which he completed three public murals, most notably Flight, a monumental work extending some 235 feet in the rotunda of the Marine Air Terminal at La Guardia Airport. After serving in Cairo during World War II, Brooks returned to New York and married the painter Charlotte Park, a 1939 graduate of the Yale School of Art. While closely studying the Synthetic Cubism of Picasso and Braque, Brooks took up teaching, first at Columbia, and then for more extended periods at Pratt Institute and Yale. A series of shorter teaching residencies punctuated his remaining career, including time at Southampton College in 1968. His first solo show at Peridot Gallery in 1950, featured stained and dripped canvases influenced by Jackson Pollock, a close friend. As Brooks recalled in a 1975 feature for The New York Times, “[Pollock’s] drip method was one way of making a stream of consciousness form on canvas. Anything that started inventiveness rolling was marvelous.” The Museum of Modern Art included Brooks in its major exhibitions Twelve Americans 1956 and the watershed New American Painting 1958. Brooks and Park set up painting studios in Montauk as early as 1947; many of their works were destroyed in a hurricane in September 1956. In 1957 the couple established a home in Springs, East Hampton.
Painters James Brooks and Charlotte Park set up studios in Montauk as early as 1947 and established a home in Springs in 1957.