George Benjamin Luks
(1867 - 1933)
George Benjamin Luks was active/lived in New York. George Luks is known for urban genre and portrait painting, illustration.
George Benjamin Luks
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Biography from the Archives of askART
Luks was born on August 13, 1867 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Luks
received his first art instruction from his parents who pursued
painting as a hobby. At seventeen he entered the Pennsylvania Academy
of Fine Arts. Later he went to Düsseldorf where he lived with a distant
relative, a retired lion-tamer. He abandoned Düsseldorf for the more
stimulating spheres of London and Paris. When he returned to America he
worked as an artist for Philadelphia newspapers. In 1896 he was sent to
Cuba as a war artist; rumor had it he was captured by the Spaniards and
condemned to death as a spy, but he was deported instead and landed in
New York, cold, hungry and broke.
Biography from the Archives of askART
In 1894 he joined the staff of
the "Philadelphia Press" as an illustrator. He moved into a one-room
flat with fellow illustrator, Everett Shinn. Through his illustration
work, Luks became acquainted with William Glackens, John Sloan and
eventually Robert Henri and these artists including Shinn later became
known as the Philadelphia Five.
In April of 1896, after serving
as a war correspondent in Cuba, Luks moved to New York City where he
joined the staff of the "New York World" and began to draw a comic
strip. He spent some time doing comic strips and then gave up newspaper
work to devote his full energies to painting. His early experience as a
newspaper artist had stimulated his interest in the American scene.
Choosing the sidewalks of New York City as his province he proceeded to
paint the subjects he saw there with a frankness that dismayed the
academicians. He turned to landscape painting with enthusiasm.
taught at the Art Students League from 1920 through 1924 and he later
conducted his own classes in his own studio. Luk's personality was as
famous as his paintings. A loud, boastful but purportedly good-humored
man, he was also a heavy drinker. On October 29, 1933, he was found
dead on the streets of New York City, a casualty of a barroom brawl.
Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition: Miniatures: The Eight
From the internet, AskART.com
Known as a 'real character', full of life both in reality and in his
painting, George Luks was a leading figure in the New York art world in
the early part of the 20th century. He did lively portraits and
genre paintings of everyday people engaged in activity rather than self
Biography from Spanierman Gallery
He was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania,
and his parents encouraged his obvious art talent. They also
supported a group called the Molly Maguires, a secret-organization of
Irish-Americans that tried to improve conditions for area miners.
This exposure had an obvious influence on his later subject matter,
which quite often showed "down and out" people.
He studied in
Europe for several years and was much influenced by the paintings of
Rembrandt and Frans Hals. He then worked for the Philadelphia Press,
doing quick, accurate reportorial sketches, a method that became his
forte. He tried to study at the Pennsylvania Academy, but his
rebellious nature resisted the discipline of formal study and he
withdrew after one month.
In Philadelphia, Luks became an illustrator with the Philadelphia Press
and covered the Cuban war as an artist-correspondent. He also did
comic strips and caricature. Among his close friends were John
Sloan, Robert Henri, William Glackens and Everett Shinn. By 1896, with
that group, Luks became a resident of New York City.
began painting the people he saw on the street and joined with the
Henri circle in depicting social realism, which became known as the Ash
Can School. Also with Henri and Sloan and others, he was part of
a highly controversial exhibition called The Eight at the Macbeth
Gallery, which was a rebellion against the strictures of the National
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
A member of The Eight, George Luks created works in vivid bravura
manner that captured the spirited energy of the tenement districts of
New York and their occupants. As Milton Brown wrote: "In his art
and in his character he symbolized the spirit of American dynamism; as
aggressive as a tycoon, as brash and boastful as a 'drummer'. . . he
was a swashbuckler in paint. This was not, of course, the cultured
tradition of American life; it was rather the expression of a cruder
side of America, an echo of the frontier." 1
Biography from Owen Gallery
Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in 1867, Luks was the son of a doctor. In
1884 he began to study art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine
Arts, where he was a student of Thomas Anshutz. Luks continued his
training in Dusseldorf, Paris, and London. Returning to America in
1894, he began a career as a newspaper artist, working for the
Philadelphia Press and the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. In addition
to illustrations, he created comic strips and caricatures.
the early twentieth century, Luks joined with Glackens, Robert Henri,
Ernest Lawson, Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan to
form the Eight. Reacting against the genteel subject matter painted by
academic and Impressionist gilded age artists, this group sought an art
more directly related to everyday experience, and they turned to
depicting the vitality and rougher aspects of modern life. Most members
of the Eight worked in a realist manner and adopted rich, dark
tonalities inspired by the art and techniques of Franz Hals, Rembrandt,
and Manet. Because of their dark palettes and preference for the
coarser subjects, the Eight became popularly known as the Ashcan School.
the early years of the Eight, Luks continued to work as a newspaper
artist, but he gradually developed his painting skills. He specialized
in portraits of street urchins, wrestlers, peddlers, and shopkeepers,
although he also painted occasional urban scenes of docks and streets.
These subjects expressed to him the romance, freedom, and joyfulness
that he felt epitomized America. Luks' particular talent was the
capturing of the character of his subjects and the essence of a moment
using a succinct artistic vocabulary and a spontaneous technique.
exhibited with other members of the Eight for the first time at New
York's Macbeth Gallery in 1908. This show challenged the artistic
status quo and created a sensation among conservative and official art
circles in America. Luks also exhibited at the Armory Show in 1913,
where the works of the early twentieth-century realists, which had so
recently seemed radical, were overshadowed by the modernism of abstract
Luks taught at the Art Students League in the
1910s, and later founded his own school. A solo show of his work was
held at the Newark Museum following his death in 1933.
works are found in numerous important private and public collections
including the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts;
the Barnes Museum, Merion, Pennsylvania; the Brooklyn Museum; the
Chattanooga Art Association, Tennessee; the Cleveland Art Museum; the
Delgado Museum, New Orleans; the Detroit Art Institute, Michigan; the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Milwaukee Art Institute; the
Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, New York; the Museum of Fine
Arts, Boston; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the
National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington,
D.C.; the New York Public Library; the Phillips Gallery, Washington,
D.C.; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery, LLC and is
copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery, LLC, and may not be reproduced in
whole or in part without written permission from Spanierman Gallery,
LLC, nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given
to Spanierman Gallery, LLC.
1 Milton Brown, American Painting
from the Armory Show to the Depression (Princeton, New Jersey:
Princeton University Press, 1955), p. 14.
On August 13th, 1867, George Luks was born to Emil Charles Luks and
Bertha Amalia von Kraemer Luks in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
After short stints at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the
Dusseldorf Academy, Luks traveled to Paris and London around 1890,
where he admired the work of Rembrandt, van Steen, Hals, and Renoir.
Again in 1892, Luks traveled to Europe.
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In 1894, he joined the staff of the Philadelphia Press as
an illustrator. He moved into a one-room flat with fellow
illustrator, Everett Shinn. Through his illustration work, Luks
became acquainted with William Glackens and John Sloan and eventually
Robert Henri, and these artists including Shinn later became known as
the Philadelphia Five.
In April of 1896, after serving as a war correspondent in Cuba, Luks moved to New York, where he joined the staff of the The New York World and began to draw the comic strip, The Yellow Kid. By 1902, Luks abandoned newspaper work in order to devote his energy to painting.
In 1908, The Eight formed from the pre-existing Philadelphia Five with
the addition of Maurice Prendergast, Arthur Bowen Davies, and Ernest
Lawson. They exhibited at the Macbeth Gallery in New York from
February 3rd through February 15th.
Luks employment as a newspaper illustrator may have led to his interest
in the everyday people and scenes which dominate many of his early
canvases. Street urchins, beggar women, rag pickers, and the
working class are painted with an immediacy, honesty, and richness
reflective of Dutch Master, Frans Hals.
Luk's personality is as famous as his painting. A loud, boastful
but purportedly good-humored man, Luks was also a heavy drinker. On
October 29, 1933, he was found dead on the streets of New York, a
casualty of a bar-room brawl.
Owen Gallery credits The Eight: Bridging the Art of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries by Brian Paul Clamp.
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