Alexander Brook was a major proponent of American Realism during the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. Like other artists practicing under this broad aesthetic umbrella—which encompassed American Scene, American Regionalism, and Social Realism—Brook presented his subjects without flattery, depicting human figures and faces with an unvarnished honesty that made no attempt to enhance appearances. Brook’s unsentimental approach is evident in the execution of Georgia Cracker, and is underscored by its derogatory title. While the phrase “cracker” can be traced back to Shakespearean texts, its use was adopted in the American South, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, as a slur describing poor rural white persons; over time, it became particularly associated with whites in Florida and Georgia.

Born to Russian émigré parents in Brooklyn, New York, Alexander developed an interest in art while recuperating from polio at the age of twelve. At seventeen, he enrolled at the Art Students League and studied there for the next four years. Brook would later serve on the school's faculty, where his students included Joseph Delaney, among others. Early in his career, Brook wrote critical articles for art journals to supplement his income. He eventually became the assistant director of the Whitney Studio Club, later known as the Whitney Museum of Art, where he worked to promote contemporary, representational art. Brook built a solid reputation during the twenties and thirties with his genre scenes and portraits painted in a realistic manner, winning several important honors. In 1930, he was awarded second place to Picasso's first prize at the Carnegie Institute’s International Exhibition of Modern Painting.   

Brook traveled south to Savannah, Georgia, in 1938 and found the city to be a great source of inspiration. He returned in 1940, settling into a studio housed in a former cotton warehouse on the riverfront. Over the next decade, he maintained a sporadic residency and executed some of his best work there. One painting of an African American shantytown on the outskirts of Savannah earned first place at the Carnegie Exposition in 1939. Throughout his career, Brook tended to favor melancholy subjects, saying “I find . . . that I am more concerned, both sympathetically and aesthetically with the simpler and sadder things about me.” That interest is reflected in the dark palette of grays and browns Brook often used to convey emotion in his paintings. 

Following his military service in World War II, Brook returned to Savannah with his wife and fellow artist, Gina Knee. Though his palette and subjects were often somber, Brook was known to be a friendly and outgoing individual. He and Knee divided their time between New York and Savannah, and their home became a gathering place for members of the city’s creative community, which included Hattie Saussy. The couple also actively supported local cultural causes, such as the theater and library. During his time there, Brook painted portraits and genre scenes, fulfilled commissions, exhibited his work, wrote articles for art publications, and produced two covers for the Saturday Evening Post. In 1948, Brook left Savannah and purchased a home on Long Island, New York, where he retired from painting in 1966 and died in 1980.