Alienation and anxiety in a 1950s subway station

Brooklyn-born painter George Tooker depicts the disquietude of a mundane trip into a contemporary subway station in The Subway, on display at the Whitney Museum.


“Made in 1950 with egg tempera paint, George Tooker’s The Subway, takes as its subject the alienating effects of modern life,” states the museum website.

“Just as the positioning, color, and facial expressions of figures in the painting suggest a dark side to modern life, so too does Tooker’s choice of subject matter: a subway station,” according to the website.

“This location emphasizes feelings of alienation, as any New York subway passenger knows. Subways are labyrinthine and almost prison-like, with low ceilings and barred areas. Tooker accentuates this effect by removing all signs from the subway station of his imagination, so that a person who is lost might never find his or her way out.”

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2 Responses to “Alienation and anxiety in a 1950s subway station”

  1. Joe R Says:

    Like everything else in life, The Simpsons TV show managed to parody it:

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Joe R, that made my day!

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