A tough painter depicts a tender New York

George Luks arrived in New York from Philadelphia in 1896.

Passionate and energetic, he was one of many young painters (along with artist friends he met in Philly, like Everett Shinn and William Glackens) whose work focused on the tenderness of the city’s underbelly.

[“The Bread Line”]


“One of the dynamic, young group of American Realists known as the Ashcan School, [Luks] was a tough character who in art and life embraced the gritty side of turn-of-the-century New York,” states the Brooklyn Museum.

Macho and combative, he first worked as an illustrator at the New York World, honing his skills outside of his newspaper job by painting peddlers, poor older women, street kids, and other down and out New Yorkers—as well as impressionist-like scenes of the city at play and at street markets.

[“Madison Square,” 1915]


In 1908, he’d gained notoriety as a member of the Eight, a group of social realist painters whose dark, gripping work attracted controversy.

Artistic styles change fast, and soon, Luks’ urban realism was out of fashion.

“Ironically perhaps, by the time Luks exhibited at the Armory Show in 1913, his formerly radical subject matter and style were overshadowed by the developing abstract movement,” states one gallery site.


[“Spring Morning in New York,” 1922]

220px-George_Luks_I“Luks would teach at the Art Students League in New York from 1920 to 1924 and go on to establish the George Luks School of Painting in New York,” on East 22nd Street.

His death in 1933, at age 66, was characteristically dramatic. On October 29, Luks (at left) was found in the early morning hours slumped in a doorway, beaten to death after a barroom brawl.

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3 Responses to “A tough painter depicts a tender New York”

  1. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    It was a good thing he was a scrappy fighter as he caused a bit of trouble amongst newspaper cartoonists! The strip ‘HOGAN’S ALLEY’ with the well known character called: ‘THE YELLOW KID’ was a very popular publication. When the creator moved from one paper to another job, the owner of the rights to the origional strip of ‘Hogan’s Alley’ got Luks to draw the feature. The results became known as: ‘Yellow Kid Journalism’ – and this was later shortened to the term ‘Yellow Journalism’ (which is NOT a compliment!)

    By the way, this gentleman is buried in Penn. The man is gone but his talent lingers…

  2. Monica Manurung Says:

    Reblogged this on monicamanurung.

  3. The Greenwich Village vision of artist Alfred Mira | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] His inspiration seems to come from the urban realists who made a name for themselves in the early 1900s, such as George Bellows and George Luks. […]

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