National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Ira Glackens
Born Williamsport, Pennsylvania
A prizefighter, vaudevillian, cartoonist, and newspaper sketch artist before he turned to painting, George Luks brought great vitality to his art. William Glackens suggests Luks’s personality and his rapid brushwork in this painting of 1899 when the two were roommates in New York City. Along with Glackens, Robert Henri, John Sloan, and Everett Shinn, Luks chose to depict the unglamorous—and sometimes sordid—reality of urban life. Initially, disapproving critics dubbed them the Ashcan School. But when they rebelled against the tradition-bound National Academy shows by holding their own exhibition with three other artists in 1908, commentators heralded a new American art. The well-publicized independence of “The Eight” opened up the art world and encouraged unjuried exhibitions. Although never a modernist, Luks participated in the controversial Armory Show of 1913, which introduced the latest European trends to American audiences.
The artist; his son, Ira Glackens, Shepherdstown, W.V.; gift 1978 to NPG