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Tooker, George

George Tooker (George Clair Tooker, Jr.), 1920–2011, American painter, b. Brooklyn, N.Y., grad. Harvard (A.B., 1942), studied (1943–45) Art Students League, New York City, with Reginald Marsh. Part of the postwar magic realist movement, Tooker portrays a surrealist-tinged modern reality that often is marked by a sense of mystery, dread, and alienation. His tableaux, which are inhabited by isolated, still, bulky, sculpturally modeled people with round, masklike faces, usually are painted with egg tempera on gessoed panels, giving them a unique luminosity. In The Subway (1950), a frightened woman in a prisonlike subway station is surrounded by ominously anonymous figures (Whitney Mus., New York City); in Government Bureau (1956), figures stand and wait before bureaucrats seated in cubicles with frosted glass screens that obscure all but a small circle of their faces (Metropolitan Mus., New York City). A figurative artist when abstraction was ascendant, Tooker was rediscovered in the 1980s and has been particularly influential in the early 21st cent.

See biographical and critical study by T. H. Garver (rev. ed. 2008).

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