This spectacular drawing was made by Gerald Leslie Brockhurst in around 1920, it depicts his wife Anaïs seated whilst her sister, Marguerite Folin, stands dressing her hair; the drawing was turned into an etching by Brockhurst in 1923. Brockhurst variously called the print ‘Les Deux Landaises’, the two girls from Landes, a reference to the area of South-West France which was the native region of Anaïs and her sister and ‘Evening’. The tender and intimate drawing demonstrates Brockhurst’s virtuosic handling of graphite and his self-conscious interest in a long tradition of depicting women at their toilet. Rendered minutely in etching, the print points to Brockhurst’s specific interest in Rembrandt, recalling, as it does, The Great Jewish Bride.
Brockhurst was born in Birmingham where, in 1901, he was registered at the Birmingham School of Art. He won a place at the Royal Academy Schools in 1907. At the Academy, among other awards, he won the gold medal and travelling scholarship which enabled him to visit Paris and Italy where he became enthralled by the art of fifteenth-century Italian painters, specifically the work of Piero della Francesca. Their influence was to be central to the evolution of his own artistic development. On 5 December 1911, in Chelsea, he married his first wife, Anaïs Folin whose distinctive features provided the inspiration for many of his early portraits. During the 1920s Brockhurst established himself first as a printmaker of outstanding virtuosity and second as one of the most original and successful portrait painters of his generation. Brockhurst produced a sequence of eerily unsettling images of the greatest icons of the decade including the Duchess of Windsor, Merle Oberon and J. Paul Getty.
This intensely worked drawing of Anaïs and her sister was made in preparation for an etching published in 1923. Brockhurst’s sheet shows him carefully building up the composition, deliberately densely drawing areas such as Anaïs’s hair and the concentrated expression of her sister, leaving other areas, such as the table and contents of the room only lightly suggested. These decisions are reflected and developed in the finished etching where, for example, the blank table of the drawing is cast into gradated shadow in the finished print. Brockhurst’s feathery touch and minutely layered hatching point to the enduring impact of studying fifteenth-century Italian art, in the present sheet the graphite is handled with the dexterity of metal point. This drawing belonged to the most considerable collectors of Brockhurst’s works in the late twentieth century, Alan and Helene Fortunoff.