Helen Inez Seibert Brooks – “Charles Van Wyck Brooks Reading,” 1936-40


Graphite on paper, 9 1/2 x 13 inches

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Inez Helen Seibert Brooks (American 1914-1987)

After marriage age 22 to Charles Brooks, two years her junior and the son of the great literary lion of New England, Van Wyck Brooks (1886-1963), the couple explored Europe close to the outbreak of World War II in 1937-38 with introductions to literary and artistic geniuses, including Gertrude Stein and her circle, Hemingway, Picasso, Braque, and many others. Back in New York she was associated with An American Place, Alfred Steiglitz’s nursery of American modernism. Seibert, for an incredibly fruitful year, was the only student of Arthur Dove, thanks to an introduction by Duncan Phillips, her father-in-law’s close friend.

Helen and Charles traveled across the United States staying briefly at Mabel Dodge’s salon in Taos, New Mexico with their traveling companions the Ralph Barton Perrys, eventually settling in Marin County in 1940. Her exemplary modernist career was filled with promise, creating unique post-cubist masterpieces for the next nine years; in 1946 her work was exhibited in a  group show at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

She was 35 years old in 1949 when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, untreatable at the time. Despite a brief career of 17 years, Siebert nevertheless figures importantly in the history of arts and letters in the United States. Her sophisticated aesthetic achievement and fresh synthesis of abstraction and figuration were accomplished well before the dawn of the 1950’s on the West coast.