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George Tooker, Two Women with Laundry (1974)




Dec. 11:
New Tooker Website

It was announced on the 27th March 2011 that George had passed away at his home in Hartland, Vt., US, at the age of 90. The cause was complications of kidney failure. He is survived by a sister, Mary Tooker Graham of Brooklyn.

I have loved George's work since discovering it in my teenage years. Here in the UK it was very difficult as Tooker wasn't as well-known as in his native US but upon stumbling on the seminal monograph by Thomas H. Garver I was left spellbound (the Robert Cozzolino 2008 book is equally as good and is reviewed here). As Garver told the New York Times:


    “These are powerful pictures that will stay in the public consciousness. Everyone can say, ‘Yes, I’ve been in that faceless situation,’ even if it’s just standing in line waiting to apply for a driver’s license.”


As great as Hopper, he will be sadly missed but his work will live on for as long as people love art.


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George Tooker (August 5, 1920 – March 27, 2011) was born and raised until age seven in Brooklyn, New York and then in Belleport, Long Island in genteel upper class surroundings, he became a figure painter whose work reflects both his privileged circumstances and understanding of those less comfortable. His subjects, often of mixed sexual and racial features, are often obscured by heavy clothing and appear sagging and shapeless, trapped within their own dull worlds.

George Tooker - Self-Portrait Print


Some critics have described his style as "magic realism," but he was not interested in the illusionary effects that many of the painters of that style espouse. He has regarded himself as more of a reporter or observer of society than an interpreter.

He took art lessons from Barbizon style painter, Malcolm Frazier, a friend of his mother and then attended Phillips Academy, a prep school, in Andover, Massachusetts where he had his first experience with lower classes because of his visits to the nearby textile community of Lawrence and Lowell.

He went to Harvard University where he studied English Literature but spent much time at the Fogg Art Museum. He was also active in socialist conscious organizations and distributed literature for radical political groups. In 1942, he graduated from Harvard and then entered the Marine Corps but was discharged due to a physical problem.

He studied at the Art Students League in New York City, beginning 1943 with Reginald Marsh. He also studied with Kenneth Hayes Miller and Harry Sternberg and in 1946, began spending time with Paul Cadmus as friend and pupil. Cadmus encouraged Tooker to work with tempera rather than the transparent wash technique taught by Marsh.

Tooker subsequently adopted a method of using egg yolk thickened slightly with water and then adding powdered pigment, a medium that was quick drying, tedious to apply, and hard to change once applied.

Fascinated by geometric design and symmetry, he works slowly, completely about two paintings a year because he spends much time searching for the underlying idea.

From 1965 to 1968, he taught at the Art Students League but has lived the later part of his life between Hartland, Vermont and Malaga, Spain. His first one-man exhibition was at the Edwin Hewitt Gallery in New York in 1951.

  • The must-have for all Tooker fans



    [  G e o r g e  T o o k e r  G a l l e r y  ]

    Teller, 1967 - Credit DC Moore Gallery, NY Ward, 1970-71 - Credit DC Moore Gallery, NY Embrace IV, 1984 - Credit DC Moore Gallery, NY The Subway, 1950 - Credit Whitney Museum of American Art Waiting Room, 1957 - Credit Smithsonian American Art Museum
    George Tooker - Thomas Garver Book Cover, 2002 George Tooker - Book Cover, 2008 George Tooker - Deluxe edition signed by the artist George Tooker George Tooker - Landscape with Figures, 1965-66
egg tempera on pressed wood
25 1/2 x 29 1/2 inches
Feldman Gallery
    George Tooker, Lunch, 1964.  Egg tempera on gessoed panel, 20 x 26 in Government Bureau, 1956
George Tooker (American, born 1920)
Egg tempera on wood; 19 5/8 x 29 5/8 in. (49.8 x 75.2 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
George A. Hearn Fund, 1956 (56.79) George Tooker, In the Summerhouse George Tooker
The Table II, 1981
egg tempera on gesso panel 
h: 24 x w: 30 in / h: 61 x w: 76.2 cm 
Gasiunasen Gallery George Tooker
Un Ballo en Maschera, 1983 
Color Lithograph, 250 in edition  
h: 22 x w: 30 in / h: 55.9 x w: 76.2 cm
    George Tooker
Girl Reading, 2003 
Egg tempera on gesso panel   
h: 15.2 x w: 19.5 in / h: 38.6 x w: 49.5 cm
DC Moore Gallery George Tooker
Sibyl, 2005 
Egg tempera on gesso panel   
h: 23.5 x w: 23 in / h: 59.7 x w: 58.4 cm 
DC Moore Gallery George Tooker
Dark Angel, 1996 
Egg tempera on gesso panel   
h: 24 x w: 19 in / h: 61 x w: 48.3 cm  
DC Moore Gallery George Tooker
The Dream, 1991 
Painting   
h: 24 x w: 18 in / h: 61 x w: 45.7 cm  
DC Moore Gallery George Tooker
Window XI, 1999 
Egg tempera on gesso panel  
h: 24 x w: 20 in / h: 61 x w: 50.8 cm  
DC Moore Gallery

    Credit: many of these images are from the DC Moore Gallery. Their website and more info. on the artist can be viewed here


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    george tooker
    book page - here


    personal recommendation:



    George Tooker (Book)
    by Thomas H. Garver


    This is the book I stumbled across years ago and fell in love with the poetic, magical realism of George Tooker. Back then, here in the UK it was difficult to get anything on Tooker so this book was like finding the Holy Grail.

    I still thumb through my now old, tatty copy and always find something to marvel at. The figures, the faces, art found in everyday life ... the world of Tooker is all here in this book. Well almost all as there are 150 paintings reproduced and for someone who works as slowly as George that is a substantial part of his oeuvre. But if you marvel at the detail you realise why he works so slowly - it's just incredible to behold.

    I am envious of Americans who can pop into a museum and see one of his works in the flesh anytime they like. Here in the UK this book has to suffice.

    It's quite a big size (11 x 10 inches) so the reproductions still have some of the power of the originals.

    available: amazon.com


    couple of the prints from the gallery are available @ amazon.com

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      thomas h. garver
      paperback book (2002)
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      paperback book (1987)
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      Tooker Thumb Gallery


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      self portrait



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      ward ii



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      un bello in maschera



      tooker
      george tooker
      self portrait



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      george tooker
      self portrait

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