Online Gallery including Biography and Exhibition listing.
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Woman with A Sprig of Laurel
George Clair Tooker, Jr., American (1920 - 2011)
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.
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
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
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 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.
He was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1968 and was a member of the American Academy
of Arts and Letters. In 2007, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Tooker lived for many years
in Hartland, Vermont.
2001 Cadmus, French, Tooker, Columbus Museum of Art Columbus, OH
2000 Making Choices 1929-1955, The Museum of Modern Art New York, NY
2000 George Tooker, Hart Gallery at the Guild Art Centre Northhampton, MA
1999 The American Century 1900-1950, Whitney Museum of American Art New York, NY
1998 George Tooker, DC Moore Gallery New York, NY
1997 Civil Progress: Images of Black America, Mary Ryan Gallery New York, NY
1997 Views from Abroad: European Perspectives on American Art 3 - American
Realities, Tate Gallery London
1996 Reality and Dream: The Art of George Tooker, Ogunquit Museum of American
1992 Tooker's Women, Marisa Del Re Gallery New York, NY
1990 Cadmus, French & Tooker: The Early Years, Whitney Museum of American Art at
Philip Morris New York, NY
1989 George Tooker: Paintings and Drawings, 1946-1989, Marsh Gallery, University
of Richmond Richmond, VA
1987 George Tooker: Working Drawings, Robert Hull Fleming Museum, University of
Vermont Burlington, VT
1985 Surreal City, 1930-1950, Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris
New York, NY
1982 Homo Sapiens, the Many Images, Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art
1974 George Tooker: Paintings 1947-1973, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco San
1969 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, Whitney Museum of Art
New York, NY
1964 Durlacher Brothers New York, NY
1963 Paintings from the Museum of Modern Art, New York, National Gallery of Art
1960 Robert Isaacson Gallery New York, NY
1958 Festival of Two Worlds, Spoleto, Italy
1953 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, Whitney Museum of
American Art New York, NY
1951 Edwin Hewitt Gallery New York, NY
1949 Painting in the United States, 1949, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute
1946 Fifteen Americans, Museum of Modern Art New York, NY