New York

George Tooker, Guitar, 1957, egg tempera on panel, 18 × 24".

George Tooker, Guitar, 1957, egg tempera on panel, 18 × 24".

George Tooker

DC Moore Gallery

“Watching George Tooker paint is excruciating,” art historian Thomas H. Garver once remarked. “Stroke, stroke, stroke, it goes on and on, yet to an observer almost nothing seems to be happening.” Over months and months, his effulgent surfaces would accumulate thousands of delicate wisps in egg tempera—the medium favored by the painters of late-medieval Italy—to illuminate delphic modern genre scenes and allegories glowing with beatitude and despair. Tooker (1920–2011) learned his ascetic and “plodding” (per the artist) method in the mid-1940s, from his friends the painters Paul Cadmus (Tooker’s lover for a time) and Jared French. A generation older, they brought him into the fold of New York’s queer artists, intellectuals, and bon vivants while securing him an introduction to Lincoln Kirstein, the pope of midcentury realism who became his primary collector and advocate.

Tooker is best known

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