I heard about the death of artist, George Tooker three weeks ago. But I didn’t have a chance to comment on his passing until now. He was one of my favorite artists in the 1980’s. And I was fortunate enough to see quite a lot of his work in New York while living there. He worked very slowly, sometimes only putting out 1 or 2 pieces in a year. It was the somber mood that he created that captivated me. His figures are wooden manikins that should not evoke such powerful emotion – but they do. And I cannot quite understand how he does it. One cannot go by the crude reproductions on the Internet. The works in person are masterpieces of detail. Tooker painted with egg tempera, a pain-staking media, which leaves few brushstrokes behind. These flat smooth surfaces hide his process too, giving the view a feeling of separation, from not only the subject, but the painting itself. It is as if Tooker is saying, “This happened to you, but in another reality.”
My father was part of an art publishing company in the 1970’s, who produced several of his prints. He gave me one of them some years ago. It is a blind intaglio (no ink) of the famous painting, “Sleeper.” I have this connection to the artist and his work that I will cherish. Goodbye George, rest well.
For more information about the artist, follow these links:
New York Times, March 2011
Here is an interesting documentary by the Columbus Museum of Art