I was saddened to read that George Tooker had died Sunday.
I have only just begun to appreciate his work, and that of his circle, and now he has passed, link to NYT obituary.
George Clair Tooker Jr.
b. 5th August 1920
d. 27th March 2011
Described as a Symbolist and a Magic Realist, labels he eschewed ; I find in Tooker’s work ( this is certainly not an original thought ) a strong link to the Renaissance, in particular the work of Piero della Francesca. It is not just his medium, egg tempera, that calls this association to mind, his sensibilities, though decidedly modern, have strong roots in the rich Renaissance tradition, a modernist Neo-Renaissance perhaps.
Pierro della Francesca
St. Sebastian and St. John the Baptist
part of the Windows series, 1950-1960.
Having a strong determination to paint, which was contrary to parental desire, Tooker majored in English Literature at Harvard ( this boy was no slouch) yet continued to paint. His circle included Reginald Marsh, Paul Cadmus ( who introduced Tooker to egg tempera) and Jared French; fine company, tremendous inspiration.
Difficult to ignore a certain resemblance.
Perhaps his most disturbing portrait is Children and Spastics , three effeminate men being pummeled by little monsters. Was this mocking? empathetic? or merely an observation?
It is striking, and quite modern.
Children and Spastics
Museum of Contemporary Art
I was first drawn to Tookers work due to the following image, it is easy to understand my attraction.
Difficult to ignore the Pieta reference.
As I mentioned with the earlier image, Tooker created a series, Windows, during the 50′s and 60′s; comely Puerto Rican neighbors being his inspiration.
After his longtime partner the painter William Christopher died in 1973 ( they had met in ’49, quite a commitment ), Tooker was understandably devastated. He followed a path I can sympathize with, he found comfort in the arms of the Mother Church, and moved to Vermont. Seems quite sensible.
The following link is a recent interview he gave to Vermont Public Radio, it’s a treat to hear his thoughts.
sourced from the New York Times
I found a rather complete gallery of Tooker’s work, unfortunately much isn’t titled or dated, but the images are ravishing.
It is a great loss, we will miss out on new Tooker paintings, mysterious, gorgeous work; fortunately he left a large body of work to absorb, contemplate and enjoy.