American painter GEORGE TOOKER (nee George Clair Tooker, Jr. died on this date (b: 1920) Tooker was a figurative painter associated with the Magic Realism movement and with the Social Realism movement as well. He was one of nine recipients of the National Medal of Arts during 2007.
In 1943 he began studying at the Art Students League of New York. Reginald Marsh and Kenneth Hayes Miller were two of his teachers at the ASL. Early in his career Tooker was often compared with other painters such as Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper and his friends Jared French and Paul Cadmus who introduced him to working with the then-revitalized tradition of egg-tempera. Tooker addressed issues of modern-day alienation with subtly eerie and often visually literal depictions of social withdrawal and isolation. Subway (1950; Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC) and Government Bureau (1956; Metropolitan Museum of Art) are two of his best-known paintings.
With his life partner, William Christopher, Tooker moved into a loft on West 18th Street in Manhattan, making custom furniture to supplement his art income. By the late 1940s he had developed his mature style and settled on the themes that would engage him for the rest of his life: love, death, sex, grief, aging, alienation and faith.
Working in rural Vermont after 1960, he produced two to four paintings a year. In true “interpreter” and “jester” same-sex, archetypical form, Tooker’s magical images were drawn from mundane experiences and transformed into commentary.
The bureaucratic shuffle he experienced when trying to get city permits to remodel a house in Brooklyn Heights led to his “Government Bureau” painting. One of his best known works, it depicts disconsolate supplicants being stared at, impassively, by workers behind frosted glass partitions, only their noses and eyes visible.
Mr. Williams died in 1973, in Spain, where the two men had been living for six years, plunging Tooker into a spiritual crisis that he resolved by embracing Roman Catholicism. In his later works, he often addressed religions themes, notably in “The Seven Sacraments”, an altarpiece he produced for the church of St Francis of Assisi in Windsor, Vermont.
He was elected to the National Academy of Design during 1968 and he is a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. During 2007, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Tooker lived for many years in Hartland, Vermont.