George Benjamin Luks

American, 1867 - 1933
George Luks's lack of sentimentality and his understanding of the cruder and coarser strata of civilization made him one of the most powerful realists of the Ashcan School, the group of painters who were tremendously influential in creating realism in twentieth-century American painting. Luks's habit of embroidering or even manufacturing his past makes it difficult to trace his life. The son of two amateur painters, he was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1867. His father was a doctor. In 1884, he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where he studied under Thomas Anshutz. He then proceeded to Europe to study in Dusseldorf, Paris and London. In 1894, Luks joined the art department of the Philadelphia Press. He covered the Cuban front as artist correspondent for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin in 1896. He also did comic strips and caricatures. With Everett Shinn, William Glackens, John Sloan and their mentor, Robert Henri, Luks became one of the famous Eight. This group was later known as the Ashcan School, for the darkness of their palette and the urban dinginess of their subject matter. Luks drew his technique from Frans Hals and Rembrandt, and his subjects from the city streets. He continued to work as a newspaper artist, the equivalent of today's news photographer. As one by one his fellow artists left Philadelphia for New York City, he joined the New York World as a cartoonist. Simultaneously, Luks developed into an accomplished painter, working swiftly and with great energy. His street urchins, wrestlers and coal miners were painted with brutal vitality and uncompromising affection. "The Wrestlers" (1905, location unknown), perhaps his most widely reproduced work, illustrates both his ability to capture with absolute clarity the essence of a moment, and his reckless and slapdash approach to technique and anatomy. In 1908, with Maurice Prendergast, Ernest Lawson and Arthur B. Davies, Luks and the other members of his group exhibited at the Macbeth Gallery in New York City, a show which was intended as a rebuke to the conservative art establishment. This show by The Eight became a rallying point for the forces of change, which eventually resulted in the Armory Show of 1913, in which Luks also exhibited. Ironically, the Vigor and new ideas of the modernist foreign painters who participated in the Armory Show overshadowed the American realists who had organized it, and Luks and his friends were passed by. Luks taught for several years at the Art Students League, and then founded his own school, where the students divided their time between painting under his inspiration and keeping their bellicose master under control. He was found dead in a New York street at age 66. Member: American Painters and Sculptors National Association of Portrait Painters New York Water Color Club Public Collections: Detroit Art Institute Harrison Gallery, Los Angeles Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City Milwaukee Art Institute Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, New York Museum of Fine Arts, Boston National Gallery, Washington, D.C. New York Public Library, New York City Phillips Gallery, Washington, D.C. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York CityBiography courtesy of Roughton Galleries,
George Luks Painting
George Luks was an outspoken member of "The Eight", a group of artists later recognized as the Ashcan School. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art under Thomas Anshutz and traveled abroad studying from 1885-1895. Luks first met the group of artists known as "The Eight" while working as a newspaper artist in Philadelphia in the 1890s. They held their first group exhibit at the MacBeth Gallery in NYC in 1908. Luks subject matter generally focused on the everyday immediacy and drama of the working class people. He was able to portray their energy and raw physicality. In the 1920s, he shifted to the harshness of coalmining. "The wrestlers" (1905) is perhaps one of Luks most widely reproduced works which shows his ability to capture the essence of the moment with clarity mixed with a reckless approach to technique and anatomy. Luks was one of the founders of the AAPS, which organized the 1913 Armory Show as well as being an influential teacher at the Art Students League. He was found dead in a New York Street at the age of 66.

Biography courtesy of The Caldwell Gallery,
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