Ashcan School – George Luks part 1

Continuing the intermittent theme on the New York "Ashcan School" (see Introduction 4 Oct 2012, William Glackens 6 Oct - 14 Oct 2012, Robert Henri 22 Oct - 1 Nov 2012) the next artist I'm featuring is George Luks.

 George Benjamin Luks (1867-1933) was a pioneer realist, a member of "The Eight," and a vigorous opponent of academic and conservative standards in subject matter. He was born in Williamsport, Pa. in 1867. In about 1884 he entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts but soon made his way to Europe, where he remained for several years. His chronology and many details of his life remain obscure because of the extravagant claims he made about exploits which seem to have been wholly fictitious. At Düsseldorf he acquired a taste for sombre colours and became an admirer of Rembrandt and Frans Hals. He abandoned Düsseldorf for the more stimulating spheres of London and Paris. He then returned to Philadelphia in 1893 where he was an illustrator for the Philadelphia Press where he met John Sloan, William Glackens, and Everett Shinn. They would meet at the studio of Robert Henri, an artist who emphasized the depiction of ordinary life, shunning genteel subjects and painting quickly. The group became known as the “Philadelphia Five.”

He was sent by the Bulletin to cover the Spanish-American War in 1895. His illustrations were lively and exciting but apparently largely imaginary, as was the story that he had been captured, sentenced to death, and deported. In 1896, Luks moved to New York and began his art career there as the premier humourist artist for the New York World. During his time as an illustrator there, he lived with William Glackens. Glackens, along with Everett Shinn and Robert Henri, encouraged him to paint seriously, and Luks developed an interest in painting "New York Street Life". The Philadelphia Five eventually became “The Eight.”

The rejection of one of Luks's paintings from the 1907 exhibition of the National Academy of Design motivated Henri's followers to form their own independent exhibiting group. Consisting of Robert Henri, George Luks, William Glackens, John Sloan, Everett Shinn, Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson, and Maurice Prendergast, the group exhibited as "The Eight" in January 1908. Their exhibition was one of the most important events in the development of twentieth-century American art. Although the styles of "The Eight" differed immensely, what unified the group was their advocacy of exhibition opportunities free from the jury system, as well as each of their desires to use painting techniques that were not sanctioned by the Academy. "The Eight" expanded into what is now known as the Ashcan School of artists.

Luks made many paintings of working class subjects and scenes of the urban street. "Hester Street" captures the Jewish court through Luks's vigorously painted representation of immigrant shoppers, pushcart peddlers, casual strollers and curious onlookers of the ethnic variety that characterised metropolitan, turn-of-the century New York.

1905 Hester Street oil on canvas 66.4 x 91.8 cm
In 1905, Luks painted what would become one of his most famous works as well as an Ashcan School icon “The Spielers.”

1905 The Spielers oil on canvas 91.8 x 66.7 cm
Two young girls make up this painting. Their happy faces contrast with their grimy hands. George Luks successfully portrays lower-class children's ability to enjoy life despite their circumstances. He painted the truth, as he saw it. In regard to colour, Luks said himself when interviewed, "I'll tell you the whole secret! Colour is simply light and shade. You don't need pink or grey or blue so long as you have volume. Pink and blue change with light or time. Volume endures." Luks was a radical only in subject matter, not in style or technique. He was involved in the formation of the 1913 Armory Show, in which he was well represented. However, he was unable to understand or accept the genuinely radical European art, which was shown in America for the first time, and resigned from the society which had formed the show.

Luks, always lusty and belligerent, was apparently killed as the result of a tavern fight in October 1933, dying in New York on the streets which he had immortalised on many canvasses.

This is part 1 of a 4-part post on the works of George Luks:

1884 Child Eating Apple graphite, pen & ink on paper 26.7 x 20.6 cm

1889 London Bus Driver oil on canvas 68.6 x 55.9 cm

1895 In Horte Fayal watercolour & graphite on cardboard 17.8 x 11.4 cm

1896 Havana, Cuba watercolour 39 x 20 cm

1899 Queen Liliokalani from Verdict magazine

1899 The Amateurs oil on canvas 61 x 45.7 cm

1900 In the Steerage oil on canvas 77.8 x 48.9 cm

1901 The Butcher Cart oil on canvas 55.9 x 68.6 cm

c1902-10 Prospect Park oil on panel 28.5 x 21.5 cm

1904 Bear and Cubs - Cubs conté crayon 25.2 x 17.8 cm

1904 Bear and Cubs conté crayon 17.8 x 25.4 cm

1904 Bear conté crayon 17.8 x 25.4 cm

1904 Bear conté crayon 17.8 x 25.4 cm

1904 Bear conté crayon 25.4 x 17.8 cm17.8

1904 Bears conté crayon 17.8 x 25.4 cm

1904 Bears conté crayon 17.8 x 25.4 cm

1904 Bears conté crayon 17.8 x 25.4 cm

1904 Bears conté crayon 17.8 x 25.4 cm

1904 Bears conté crayon 25.4 x 17.8 cm

1904 Black Bear conté crayon 17.8 x 25.4 cm

1904 Brown Bear conté crayon 17.8 x 25.4 cm

c1904 Copley Square oil on canvas 50.8 x 61 cm

c1904 Little Lore with Her Hat oil on canvas 101.6 x 76.2 cm

1905 Gramercy Park watercolour 41.3 x 61.3 cm

1905 The Sand Artist oil on canvs 74.9 x 73 cm

1905 The Wrestlers oil on canvas 122.9 x 168.6 cm

c1905 Study for The Wrestlers conté crayon on paper 19.1 x 24.8 cm

c1905 Allen Street oil on canvas 81.3 x 114.3 cm

c1905 Child in Grey oil on canvas 50.8 x 38.1 cm

c1905 Children Throwing Snowballs oil on canvas 41 x 51 cm

c1905 The Pawnbroker's Daughter oil on canvas 64.1 x 76.2 cm

c1905 The Rag Picker oil on canvas 66 x 55.9 cm

c1907 Pals oil on canvas 76.2 x 63.5 cm

c1907 The Little Madonna oil on canvas 69.5 x 56.5 cm cm

1908 The Guitar oil on canvas 72 x 74 cm

c1908 At the Café oil on panel 24.8 x 34.9 cm

c1908 Sulky Boy oil on canvas 111.8 x 86.4 cm

1909-10 Roundhouse at High Bridge oil on canvas 77.1 x 92 cm

c1909 Lily Williams oil on canvas 44.7 x 39.5 cm

c1910-15 The Wedding Cake oil on canvas 76.2 x 63.5 cm

c1910 The North River, New York oil on canvas 52 x 62.2 cm