George Luks Biography | Oil Paintings

8-13-1867 Williamsport, Pennsylvania USA - 10-29-1933 New York, NY USA

Luks, George

George Benjamin Luks learned at a young age about poverty and compassion as he watched his parents helping the coal miners' families in coal mining towns of Pennsylvania.

George Luks knew from a young age that he wanted to be an artist but his first jobs were as an entertainer in vaudeville shows, not happy with this profession, he left to study briefly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before deciding to sail to Europe, to study the Old Masters and attend several art schools.

In 1893, he returned to Philadelphia, and eventually found work as an illustrator for the Philadelphia Press. At that newspaper, George Luks met fellow illustrators John Sloan, William Glackens, and Everett Shinn. These men would meet weekly for social and intellectual meetings, in the studio of Robert Henri, a talented painter several years their senior. Henri urged his more youthful companions to consider the need for a new style of painting that would define more their own particular time and experiences.

In 1896, Luks moved to New York City and began work as an artist for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. And shared an apartment with William Glackens. Along with Everett Shinn and Robert Henri, Glackens encouraged Luks to invest more energy in his serious painting. What resulted were several productive years in which Luks painted some of the most vigorous examples of what would be called Ashcan art. In 1905, George Benjamin Luks painted two of his most famous works, symbols of the Ashcan school, The Spielers and The Wrestlers.

George Luks, the Bad Boy of the Art World.

The realistic style they painted and not depicting life in the glamorous parts of the city, caused many works to be rejected, including the works by George Luks, from the exhibitions of the powerful and very conservative National Academy of Design. This motivated Henri's followers to form their own short-lived independent exhibiting group in January 1908. The group became known as The Eight and included George Luks, Robert Henri, William Glackens, John Sloan, Everett Shinn, Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson, and Maurice Prendergast.

The first known use of the Ash Can or Ashcan phrase in describing the art movement was in 1916 by left-wing political magazine cartoonist Art Young. The term was applied not only to the Henri circle, but also to such painters as George Bellows a student of Henri, Jerome Myers, Gifford Beal, Glenn Coleman, and Mabel Dwight, and to photographers Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine, who also portrayed New York's working-class neighborhoods in a sometimes brutally realistic fashion.

Luks was also a teacher, first at the Arts Students League and, later, across the street at a school he established himself, which remained open until the time of his death in 1933.

Luks was one of the most distinctive American art personalities, a born rebel, like many of the later Abstract Expressionist men. He took pride in being known as the "bad boy", made a great display of his masculinity, and could seldom retreat from a dare. He jumped at the chance to describe himself as completely self-made and made light of the impact of Robert Henri, or anyone, on his artistic development. Luks was a heavy drinker, and his friend and one-time roommate William Glackens often had to undress him and haul him to bed after a night of inebriated revelry. George Luks also had a good side, as a man with a kind heart who become friends with individuals living on the edge, and who sometimes became subjects for his paintings.

George Benjamin Luks was found dead in a doorway by a policeman in the early morning hours following a bar-room brawl, he had been beaten to death in an altercation with one of the customers at an adjacent bar. The newspapers wrote that the painter had succumbed on his way to paint the dawn sky.

Art Movement: Ashcan School.
Artists Influencing George Benjamin Luks: Diego Velazquez, Frans Hals, Edouard Manet, William Glackens.
He Traveled To France, Germany, England.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist, with text adapted from Wikipedia.

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