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Romaine Brooks

It Makes the Dead Sing
about 1930
charcoal and pencil
18 9/16 x 12 1/4 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist

Romaine Brooks wrote a memoir about her life with a cruel mother and demented brother, which she titled No Pleasant Memories. She planned to illustrate the book with evocative, linear fantasies that suggest more than they reveal. It Makes the Dead Sing is one of the most complex and accomplished of those images. A hooded, robed figure gathers tortured souls to its bosom, a lugubrious chorale of singing and wailing figures. More than a personal lamentation, it represents a universal, apocalyptic vision.