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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sneak Peek from the Stacks: George Tooker's Morning Commute

Study for The Subway, 1949. George Tooker papers
The Archives of American Art primarily collects documents surrounding art (artists' and galleries' correspondence, notes, ephemera, etc.), and not art itself, but this study by George Tooker for his 1950 painting "The Subway" comes awfully close to being an art object in its own right. Tooker was a social realist painter in the same vein as Edward Hopper, and "The Subway", now at the Whitney Museum, is one of his best-known works. The finished painting shows a prison-like subway station with grim-faced and anxious commuters. In the study, Tooker was clearly hashing out his color scheme, which seems to have changed very little in the finished work. The documentary evidence that can be gleaned from this sketch is fantastic for scholars of his work, and the visual appeal is just the cherry on top.

For more on George Tooker in the Smithsonian collections, click here.

- Bettina Smith, Librarian for Digital Projects, Archives of American Art.

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