George B. Luks

George B. Luks

Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, USA
Death 29 Oct 1933 (aged 67)
Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Royersford, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, USA
Memorial ID 57135813 · View Source
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Artist. He is remembered for being one of “The Eight,” a group of 20th century artists who held a show in January 1908 at the MacBeth's Gallery in New York City. Deviating from the tradition thought of art, this group consisted of their leader and art instructor, Robert Henri and other realistic artists: John French Sloan, Maurice Pendergast, William James Glacken, Ernest Lawson, Everett Shinn, George Bellows, Arthur Davies and Luks. Although these men differed in their styles, all were “united in their advocacy of exhibition opportunities free from the jury system as their belief in content and painting techniques that were not necessarily sanctioned by the conservative National Academy of Design.” By rejecting these artist of realistic thought of art, the National Academy of Design was impacting their livelihood. This group of artist needed representation and as an act of protest, “The Eight” held their own show in 1908. The Ashcan School of Art in New York City evolved from “The Eight” with him being one of the four artist who actually started the school. This school was interested in capturing the real but modern imaging of the working-class New Yorkers in paintings of bright, rich colors. At that time, many thought this subject was vulgar, inappropriate and undesirable. By 1908, Luks had been rejected many times by the established art society. He was a realistic painter, comic artist, and newspaper illustrator. Born in a grimy,rough coal-mining town in Pennsylvania, he was the third surviving child of Dr. Emil Charles Luks and his wife Bertha von Kraemer, who was a painter as a hobby. His parents were of German heritage, but Luks later claimed to be French, Dutch, and Bavarian descent to enhance his artistic career. His parents sent him to Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for a short time and then to study in Paris, London, and Germany before returning to the United States in 1894. In 1895 he traveled to Cuba as a newspaper correspondent covering the Spanish American War for the “Philadelphia Bulletin.” His gross drawings of bloody battle scenes held anyone's interest in the newspaper articles. When the newspaper learned that Luks never saw battle, the newspaper stopped publishing his work. In 1903, after studying in Paris for a year, he settled in the bohemian-life style of Greenwich Village in New York City sharing an apartment with the must younger artist Everett Shinn. Luks was described as a five-and-a-half foot tall, heavy set man, who loves loud plaid suits, women and alcohol. It was there he started the realistic painting of the working-class New Yorkers. Examples of his work were in 1905 “The Wrestlers” and “Hester Street,” in 1906 “Cafe Francis,” and in 1929 “The Polka Dot Dress, “ which is on display at the Smithsonian Art Museum. His best-known work in 1905, “ Spielers” was a scene in the slums of New York City with two little girls dancing on the sidewalk. Rapidly producing pieces in rich tones of oils, his paintings included faces with large eyes and enhanced expressions; he did raw front-view nudes. He received excellent press covering being the recipient of the Hudnut Watercolor Prize from the New York Club in 1916, the William A. Clark Prize from the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1917, the Temple Gold Medal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Logon Medal of Chicago Art Institute in 1918. The talented Luks, as an illustrator, was a forerunner in developing the term “Yellow Journalism,” which is the sensationalizing of published news to attract readers and increase circulation. In a competition between William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's New York World newspaper, Luks drew the popular cartoon character the “Yellow Kid” for Pulitzer and an another artist, R. F. Outcault,the same for Hearst's newspaper. In the end, Pulitzer won since his newspaper legally had the rights to the comic strip; after the battle of the newspapers, the term “Yellow Journalism” was used to honor the “Yellow Kid” character. Like Sloan, he taught at the New York Art Students League from 1920 to 1924, then later opening the George Luks School of Painting. Often Luks would take center-stage in the saloons of New York City boasting the tales of his alleged boxing exploits under the name of “Chicago Whitey,” the champion lightweight amateur boxer and often starting a bar fight. As he aged, his ability to produce art pieces as well as win bar fights declined. Sadly, after a bar fight, he was found by a policeman one morning dead in a doorway at 6th Avenue and 52nd Street in New York City. Although his obituary mentioned his prizefighter career, years later it was learned the prizefighter Whitney Lewis AKA “Chicago Whitney” was actually Jacob Seidensheiner. He was proud of being an American artist and at times, got combative when the American public would boast European artist over their nation's artists. He married three times and was just reunited with his third wife at the time of his death. For years he was a close friend of the American artist Margarett Sargent, painting in 1919 her portrait “White Blackbird,” which played on her white complexion and black hair. Early in his career, she did a sculpture of him and was reportedly devastated upon hearing of his sudden death. In the New York Times, October 10, 1933, the reporter wrote, “His canvasses were invariably virile; his versatility was astonishing, and he painted as he lived, contemptuous of conventionalities, impatient with snobbishness and full of joy of life that so many of his paintings reflected.” He was a talented artist yet a colorful character; those who were still living of “The Eight” and boxer Gene Turney attended his funeral, which was held on Halloween Eve.

Bio by: Linda Davis

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Mike O
  • Added: 16 Aug 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 57135813
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for George B. Luks (13 Aug 1866–29 Oct 1933), Find A Grave Memorial no. 57135813, citing Fernwood Cemetery, Royersford, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .