Archive for the George Tooker Category

Settling in with Jared French

Posted in 15th century, 20th century, George Tooker, Jared French, Pierro della Francesca on January 12, 2012 by babylonbaroque

As it has been quite some time since my last post, I have felt increasingly anxious about updating. Given the length of time in which I last checked in I really wanted this post to be rather special.

Alas it isn’t going to be. My new life, here in San Diego is frankly banal, frightfully banal. I am here, ostensibly to tend to the mother-in-law; I spent most of today cooling my heels while she had her hair done.

I need to work on this.

Until that time, I will continue to lock myself in my studio, and in between my monastic retreats continue to patronize the numerous used bookshops in Hillcrest. They offer great solace, particularly as I am essentially living in a cultural wasteland.

Once again lovely musty books come to my rescue.

What popped out on a recent afternoon  visit were several volumes on Piero della Francesca, a great favorite and one volume on Jared French. I’ve been thinking about French ever since George Tooker died. When I had written that post I felt a strong connection between Tooker ( and French) and Piero della Francesca. I quickly found out this was common knowledge, but I still  find it very exciting. As I personally struggle with incorporating humanist elements into my own work, to see how seamlessly French accomplished this is encouraging, daunting and thrilling. One painting (of many exciting paintings) really stands out, that is Washing the White Blood from Daniel Boone; it is such a rich image, its Renaissance roots are palpable.

Jared French

Washing the White Blood from Daniel Boone

egg tempera on gesso panel

William Kelly Simpson

 source

The book I happen to be reading concerning French and his work is Nancy Grimes’ Jared French’s Myths, it really is marvelous, you might want to add it to your own collection. She points out the della Francesca inspiration, particularly concerning this painting; she very reasonably presents the Baptism of Christ.

Pierro della Francesca

Baptism of Christ

1448-50

egg tempera on poplar board 

National Gallery, London

That connection is quite right, but so many of della Francesca’s painting must have influenced French ( and Tooker and Cadmus). My own random browsing of della Francesca’s work led me to his still arresting image of Hercules.

Hercules

1465

Fresco

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

Stumbling about, I came upon this sketch by French for Washing the White Blood from Daniel Boone; I’m always bewildered and intimidated by the “sketches” of the great.

source

What is so very frustrating about French isn’t his enigmatic images, what is so challenging is how little seems to be known about the fellow. Grimes does an admirable job piecing together bits of the puzzle; but from my research I could find very little new information. Even Wikipedia was mute.

I rather prefer the mystery that surrounds this boy from New Jersey ( my own home state), I will continue to grapple about for new tid-bits, enjoying his incredible work as I go about the task.

Jared French, January 25th 1939,

taken by Carl Van Vechten

source

This video clip has many more images of French’s work, worth checking out if so inclined.

Once again, please pardon this rather pedestrian post. The dust from packing has just settled, my studio is now freshly set up, still much to do of course, but beginning to feel a bit like home; albeit one  situated in a rabidly right wing environment with a rather daunting homophobic mother-in-law.

Wish me luck.

Until next time,

Babylon Baroque

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George Tooker, Reqcuiscat in Pace

Posted in 20th century, Gay, George Platt Lynes, George Tooker, Jared French, Paul Cadmus, Pierro della Francesca, Recquiscat in Pace, Reginald Marsh on March 31, 2011 by babylonbaroque

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.

Self Portrait

1947

b. 5th August 1920

d. 27th March 2011

age 90

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

George Tooker

Window XI

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.

George Tooker by George Platt Lynes

source

Cornice

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

1946

Museum of Contemporary Art

Chicago

I was first drawn to Tookers work due to the following image, it is easy to understand my attraction.


Coney Island

1947

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.


Window XIII

The Window

lithograph

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.

Dance

1946


Good Night,

Babylon Baroque