In Part 2 of my discussion of Philip Evergood and George Tooker I will be concentrating on the contribution of George Tooker. Tooker was gay like his friends Paul Cadmus and Jared French other Gay artists who were friends of Tooker. You can see some of the sexuality of their work reflected in Tooker’s work as well.
American Art begins by describing Tooker’s art . Referring to his Government Office of 1950 they make the following comments.
” George Tooker speciality was painting anonymous often faceless individuals seemingly overwhelmed by the eerie threatening spaces they inhabit in Government Offices”. .
If you have ever been in one of these Buildings I have , you can see that what Tooker represents is a true realist picture.
” Tooker represents an assortment of isolated individuals in administrative space full of glassed portions. it is unclear what purpose this space fills”. .
” Tooker’s spaces are kafkaesque in their sense of oppression and their emphasis on the isolation of the Individual recalls the Film-Noir aesthetic then being developed in Cinema”..
American Art continues its commentary on Tooker by showing his use of Egg Tempera a device used by many renaissance painters before the discovery of Oil painting.
” Tooker’s use of the traditional egg tempera technique giving his work a flat even surface contributes to this mood”. .
I have shown other similar artists who also used Egg Tempera like Jared French and Paul Cadmus. Ann Lee Morgan in the Oxford Dictionary of American Art and artists comments on Tooker’s work as well.
” Tooker painstakingly crafted his eerie depictions of Modern Life emphasizing alienation , grief and existential anxiety”. .
” Minutely realistic detail lends believability to imaginary settings while immobilized figures embody states of psychological unease”. .
It as if we are looking through a hazy dreamlike unreal atmosphere but they are real and do exist. Anyone who has been in a Social Security office or a Job Centre will find the same immobilized people sitting around in a daze.
” His best known painting the subway despite self-absorbed individuals trapped in a claustrophobic space suggesting a New York Subway”. .
The abstract Impressionist Mark Rothko before he developed complete abstraction painted a series of Subway scenes so the subject appears familiar with New York artists.
” Tooker’s settings often suggest the dehumanising aspects of Modern Life a point emphasized by the lack of Individuality among his characters”. .
Morgan shows why Tooker used the Egg Tempera method which was slow and Laborious.
” Tooker switched from Oil painting to egg Tempera a laborious technique suitable for small scale detail. early Renaissance Painting and the work of JAD Ingres (Neo Classicist pupil of the Great Neo Classicist Jacques David The Great French revolutionary) numbered among important influences on the formation of his style”. .
” Because his paintings present believable elements within (Unreal are they) images Tooker is often grouped within the practitioners of Magic Realism”. .
Matthew Baigell in his History of American painting comments on Tooker.
” Several artists including George Tooker continued to explore the kind of Subject matter and spatial arrangements of earlier artists such as O Louis Guglielmi (An artist I will discuss in future posts) but in a more psychological rather than social and political contexts”. .
” Like the Precisionists ( Charles Sheeler Charles Demuth and Georgia O’Keefe) they never formed a School , although they shared some stylistic traits and explored a similar range of themes. their anxiety hidden and hallucinated figures reflect less the existentialist anguish of Abstract expressionism”. .
Finally Baigell concludes with a comment that Tooker’s figures seem to have lost their human characteristics.
” Tooker’s figures particularly seem to have their individuality and will and in the bureaucratic systems of Modern society (Capitalism) to have lost their Humanity (futility of Life”..
This concludes my exploration of George Tooker and Philip Evergood. Both of them in their own way had a critical view of Capitalist Society. Evergood with his Social and political comments whereas Tooker used more psychological and terrifying images to paint the oppression and exploitation of Capitalism.
- AMERICAN ART FLAME PUBLISHING. PG. 216
- THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN ART AND ARTISTS ANN LEE MORGAN PG.487
- A CONCISE HISTORY OF AMERICAN PAINTING AND SCULPTURE MATTHEW BAIGELL .PG. 328-9