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Artists George Tooker
George Tooker Photo

George Tooker

American Painter

Movements and Styles: Magic Realism, Social Realism, Surrealism, Photorealism

Born: August 5th, 1920 - Brooklyn, New York

Died: March 27th, 2011 - Hartland, Vermont

George Tooker Timeline

Quotes

"I don't want too much attention. I never really wanted to be part of the New York scene."
George Tooker
"The Waiting Room is a kind of purgatory - people just waiting - waiting to wait. It is not living. It is a matter of waiting - not being one's self. Not enjoying life, not being happy, waiting, always waiting for something that might be better, which never comes."
George Tooker
"I think Subway has been overreproduced - it's as if I've never painted anything but! And I've certainly painted better pictures than that."
George Tooker
"Painting is an attempt to come to terms with life. There are as many solutions as there are human beings."
George Tooker
"I suppose I don't paint such unpleasant pictures as I used to. I got to be known for unpleasant pictures. I think my pictures are happier now, with fewer complaints."
George Tooker
"I am after reality - painting impressed on the mind so hard that it recurs as a dream... but I am not after dreams as such, or fantasy."
George Tooker

"Symbolism can be limiting and dangerous, but I don't care for art without it."

Synopsis

George Tooker's eerie and captivating paintings took on art's biggest themes of desire, death, religion, and grief. As a queer artist working in the 1950s, Tooker railed against the established status quo in both his life and art, with his work focusing primarily on critiquing the isolation and disaffection prevalent in an increasingly Capitalist and bureaucratic world. His works combine qualities of Surrealist dreamscapes, political commentary, and Renaissance painting techniques to create disturbing, yet beautiful, images of everyday human struggles.

Key Ideas

As a staunch anti-Capitalist and critic of the government, George Tooker documented the effects of the Depression in the city, and the stranglehold of government imposed red tape and bureaucracy on people's lives as they became increasingly desperate and increasingly de-individualized via officialdom.
Karl Marx's theory if alienation (1932) describes how individuals become estranged from themselves, and others via the Capitalist system and their own social classes. Tooker was himself a communist, and alienation is always present in his works, which multiply faceless or identically faced people, who are often alone and expressionless subjects of an employment or government machine.
Tooker was an out gay man in the 1950s, and his queerness is evidenced by the often androgynous, non-gendered, figures he portrays. Tooker's work also shows an unusual and remarkable empathy for women; while the Surrealists used women as symbols, erotic objects of their own desire, Tooker shows women as equal non-subjects of Capitalism, as well as painting experiences of social anxiety that are particularly linked to femininity (as in his most famous work, The Subway).
Later in life, after the death of his life partner, Tooker moved inwards to works that explore his own internal and spiritual life. Although figures remain central to his work, the city is replaced by the artist's own imaginary life, rife with religious symbolism, particularly around death, grief, and the afterlife.

Biography

George Tooker Photo

Childhood

George Tooker was born on August 5th, 1920 in Brooklyn to George Clair Tooker and Anela Montejo Roura. He had one sister named Mary. His father was of English and French descent and his mother was a mixture of German, English and Spanish-Cuban heritage. His family lived in Brooklyn until he was seven years old, after which his family moved to Bellport, Long Island. He was brought up as a member of the Episcopal Church and was of a middle class background.

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George Tooker Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
George Tooker
Interactive chart with George Tooker's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Giorgio de ChiricoGiorgio de Chirico
Giovanni Bellini
Sandro BotticelliSandro Botticelli
W. H. Auden

Personal Contacts

Reginald MarshReginald Marsh
Paul CadmusPaul Cadmus
Malcolm Fraser
Jared French
William Christopher

Movements

RealismRealism
SurrealismSurrealism

Influences on Artist
George Tooker
George Tooker
Years Worked: 1946 - 2007
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Guillermo del Toro
W. H. Auden

Personal Contacts

Paul CadmusPaul Cadmus
George Platt Lynes
Jared French
Kenneth Hayes Miller
William Christopher

Movements

Magical Realism
PhotorealismPhotorealism

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Content compiled and written by Charlotte Davis

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Charlotte Davis
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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