George Luks (1866–1933), Miner’s Wife Posted on July 22nd, 2014 by

Miner's WifeGeorge Luks (1866–1933)
Miner’s Wife, c. 1925
Charcoal and black wash on paper, 14 ½ x 8 inches
Gift of the Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom

Luks was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and lived as a child in the nearby coal mining town of Shenandoah, moving to Philadelphia in 1883. He was a robust and rugged character who, after working in vaudeville, studied for a year at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He traveled abroad and, it was believed, studied for a time at the Düsseldorf Academy. While working as an artist-reporter for the Philadelphia Press, where he met Robert Henri (1865–1929) and John Sloan (1871–1951), he was sent by the paper to Cuba, to cover the Spanish American War, and was captured by the Spaniards and sentenced to death, but instead of being executed he was sent back to the U.S. Luks settled in New York City in 1896, and he began to paint in 1897, in a style consisting of strokes and slashes of mostly dark color, similar to that of Henri (who himself relocated to New York around this time). In the 1920s, the artist spent time returning to central Pennsylvania and made portraits and studies of its residents, including this image of a miner’s wife, drawn from life. Its direct style relates closely to the artist’s approach in painting, and the woman is depicted with sympathy but not pity. Luks enjoyed his reputation as a “bad boy” of art. He drank a great deal and his one-time roommate, fellow member of The Eight William Glackens (1870–1938) had to help him to bed after bouts of drinking. Luks met with an unfortunate but not surprising death, given his blustery and boasting personality: he was found dead on a New York street, at age 66, having been beaten in a barroom brawl.

Text from the catalogue for the exhibition The Eight, The Ashcan School, and The American Scene in the Hillstrom Collection, presented in the Hillstrom Museum of Art February 25 through April 21, 2013.


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