James Brooks (American, 1906–1992) was a renowned Abstract Expressionist painter. He was considered to be among the first generation of American Abstract Expressionists who employed staining as a painting technique. Born in St. Louis, MO, Brooks lived in a number of cities and states before his family finally settled in Dallas, TX. In 1922, he graduated from Oak Cliff High School, and he later studied art at the Southern Methodist University. He also attended the Dallas Art Institute and took private art lessons from Martha Simkins (American, 1866–1969).
Brooks moved to New York in 1926, where he worked as a commercial artist while attending night classes at the Art Students League under Boardman Robinson (American, 1876–1952). By 1930, Brooks was exhibiting works done in a Social Realist style in New York galleries and exhibitions. One of his 1950s famous murals titled Flight was painted 235 feet along the Marine Air Terminal's rotunda at La Guardia Airport in New York. The mural, which was considered to be a symbol of left-wing ideas, was taken down, but restored in 1980 after protests by artists, historians, and curators.
After serving in the United States Army between 1942 and 1945, Brooks returned to New York, NY, and developed a new style of Abstract painting based on synthetic Cubism ideas of Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973). He worked on a series of stained canvases in the Abstract Expressionist style, which were featured at the Peridot Gallery in New York, NY. Brooks’s work was featured in group exhibitions, such as the 1951 Ninth Street Exhibition and exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Some of his solo exhibitions include the James Brooks: Six Decades exhibition at the Joan T. Washburn Gallery in New York, NY, in 2002, and In Confluence at the Jason McCoy Gallery, New York, NY, in 2009. Brooks was also remembered as a great art teacher at the University of Philadelphia, PA, and at Columbia University in New York. He died of Alzheimer's disease in his Long Island home in 1992.