N.A. Brooks

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Nicholas Alden Brooks (American, Active 1880-1904) Considerable mystery surrounds the name Nicholas Alden Brooks. Other than having been active in New York City between 1880 and 1904, very little is known about the artist. There are no records of any art societies showing him as a member or his having participated in any exhibits. The name Brooks, in fact, could possibly be a pseudonym for Robert Fullington, whose name appears on theatrical memorabilia in Brooks' trompe l'oeil still-life paintings.

William Harnett seems to be the source of inspiration for most of Brooks' work. Quite often, in fact, Brooks' work was mistaken for that of Harnett's, with a counterfeit Harnett signature. Everything in these paintings was calculated to enhance doubts, often with flat objects casting minimal shadows, and so providing few visual clues as to whether the source of light in the painting differs at all from the source of light in the room where the painting is seen. However, this effort to produce perfect counterfeit allowed a trompe l'oeil artist little leeway to assert himself, leaving little room for spontaneity or expression.

In the late nineteenth century, trompe l'oeil money painters were often accused of, and even arrested for counterfeiting. Charges, however, were usually reversed because their drawings were signed as personal works of art. In the mid-1880's, campaigns were launched by the Secret Service against most money painters, persuading many but not all to desist from work that might be misconstrued.

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln represented particular fascination for Brooks. Several of his paintings include posters and playbills from the Ford Theatre. One depicts a ticket stub the night that Lincoln was shot on April 14th.

(Source: With permission from AskArt.com, prior biographical submission from the archives of AskArt.)