Romi Behrens: A Painting Life


Publication 14th September 2024
Pre-orders can be placed now and orders will be fulfilled in September

Author: Dr Rachel Rose Smith
Foreword: Chris Stephens, director of the Holburne Museum, Bath and former curator, Modern British Art, Tate Britain, 2001-2017

David Ward, RA, artist and curator of several exhibitions, including Turner Contemporary, Margate in 2016
Alice Mumford, RWA, Cornish artist, teacher at the St Ives School of Painting

270 x 210mm / softback
136 pages
ISBN: 978-1-915670-16-8


  • The first substantial monograph on artist and painter Romi Behrens (1939–2019)
  • Provides a chronological look at Romi’s long and varied career, covering six decades of painting, from the early 1960s to the late 2010s
  • Richly illustrated with 80 colour images of works, including many previously unseen paintings, drawings and archival photographs
  • Relates this important painter’s work to her life, and her practice to that of other artists, identifying several themes, including her faith
The painter, Romi Behrens, lived in West Cornwall for nearly seventy years, energetically painting the subjects around her every day. Her artistic career was as long as it was broad and spanned many genres, including still life, portraiture and landscape painting. This is the first monograph to pay homage to the extent of her career, providing a selected but characteristically-diverse range of visual and written material from the artist’s oeuvre and archives, starting with Romi’s earliest paintings of her family, friends and the streets of Penzance and extending to religious themes done later in her life.
Rachel Rose Smith gives chronological shape to the span of Romi’s work, analysing the varying relationships throughout between the person and her work, as it reflected the many identities she held, including painter, woman, wife and mother. The author also explores rich connections embedded within her ways of seeing to formative examples from the history of painting, including Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Matisse, Cezanne and Picasso, with whom she arguably worked in dialogue. Romi’s works, however, are very much her own throughout, with those forms of expression and attention learnt from precedents mingling with her own humour, flair and surrounding life. Romi’s Christian faith and the loving focus she gave to her many subjects, whether friends or inanimate objects, are similarly explored, revealing a body of work which is both tender and vibrant, as well as persistent and constantly on the move.
Exhibition details: Tremenheere Sculpture Garden, Gulval, Nr Penzance
Exhibition dates: 14th September to 5th November 2024
Author Biography
Dr Rachel Rose Smith is an art historian and curator from mid-Cornwall, based in London. A specialist of art made in West Cornwall in the wartime and post-war periods, she has published widely on Barbara Hepworth and the St Ives School, and has held curatorial positions at the Heong Gallery in Cambridge and Tate Britain. She is currently editing the catalogue raisonné of paintings by Ben Nicholson.