Born in Brooklyn, New York, Alexander Brook was a realist painter, whose works consisted mostly of still-life subjects, landscapes, and figures, often of women. He was very successful in his day, winning second prize to Picasso’s first prize at the Carnegie Institute International Exhibition of Modern Painting in 1930.
In New York, he studied at the Art Students League between the years of 1914-1918. It was at the Art Students League that Brook developed significant relationships with Niles Spencer, Reginald Marsh, Kenneth Hays Miller, Yasuo Kuniyoshi and, perhaps most significantly, Peggy Bacon, whom he married in 1920. Along with Kenneth Hayes Miller, Brook studied with John C. Johansen, Frank V. DuMond, George Bridgeman and Dimitri Romanofski. Within this group lay the foundations of American Realism. Brook was a member of the Society of Independent Artists, who rebelled against the strictures of the National Academy of Design.
In 1938 Brook traveled to Savannah, Georgia, there he did some of his most provocative work. After two years in the South, Bacon and Brook were divorced. Brook later married the painter Gina Knee.
During the years 1928 through 1939, Alexander Brook had works in over one-hundred exhibitions, fifteen of which were one man shows. By 1942, Brook had resumed teaching at the Art Students League. Demand for the artist’s work kept him in significant collections, galleries, and museums, including the Downtown Gallery (New York), the National Academy of Design, the Rehn Gallery, the Larcada and the Knoedler galleries.
Some feel Brook may have retreated from the art world with the rise of Abstract Expressionism, although a sketchbook that he kept from 1949 to 1951 reveals an active engagement in painting and served multi purposes–a repository for his ideas, an address book, notebook, and travel diary. Of special interest are his notes on watercolor technique. It also includes tips for using new painting tools such as knives, sponges, and razor blades. Most of the sketches in it are of Florida landscapes, which augmented written accounts of his travels. Many later drawings were inspired by the trip Brook made with his third wife to Europe, where he studied the works of Picasso, Goya and Zurbaran.
Brook received awards at the Art Institute of Chicago (1929), the Pennsylvania Academy (1931), the Guggenheim Fellowship (1931), and the San Francisco Art Association (1938).