George Tooker (American, 1920–2011) was a painter associated with the Magic Realism and Social Realism movements, and is best known for his depictions of alienation in modern city life. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he studied literature at Harvard University, and in 1943 studied at the Art Students League in New York under Social Realist painters Reginald Marsh and Kenneth Hayes Miller. In his early work, Tooker focused on urban loneliness and disillusionment, as in his painting The Subway (1950), which depicts office workers trapped in a maze of prison-like passageways. Similarly, his Landscape with Figures (1965) is a grid of cubicles, lit with an eerie, red glow and filled with the heads of expressionless workers. In his later work, Tooker explored more symbolic themes, drawn from biblical, mythological, and classic literature. His interest in Renaissance painters, such as Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca, is particularly evident in works such as Embrace of Peace II (1988) and Dark Angel (1996). Tooker’s work is currently held in several public collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Timeline

1920
Born: in Brooklyn, NY on August 5th
1938–1942
BA, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
1943
Student, Arts Student League, under Reginald Marsh and Kenneth Hayes Miller
1960
Grant, National Institute of Letters
1970
Member, National Academy of Design
2007
Awarded the National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush
2011
Died: in Hartland, VT on March 27th

Exhibitions

2001
Cadmus, French, Tooker, Columbus Museum of Art Columbus, OH
2000
Making Choices 1929-1955, The Museum of Modern Art New York, NY
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
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 Art Maine
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 Ridgefield, CT
1974
George Tooker: Paintings 1947-1973, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco San Francisco, CA
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 Washington, DC
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 Pittsburgh, PA
1946
Fifteen Americans, Museum of Modern Art New York, NY