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George Luks
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George Luks, Hester Street, 1905. Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 x 36 1/8in. Brooklyn Museum.

The following imformation was copied from pages 427 and 428 in:

 Craven, Wayne. American Art: History and Culture. New York: Abrams, 1994.

Other members of the Ashcan school similarly sought their subject matter in the pageantry of daily streetlife.  George Luks (1867-1933), for example, found the crowded New York City sidewalks, the shops, the various languages, accents, and customs an exciting theme for his picture Hester Street.  After studying t the Pennsylvania Academy, Luks traveled about Europe, briefly attending several art schools.  He returned to Philadelphia in 1893, where he soon found employment as an illustrator.  After serving as a war illustrator in Cuba during the Spanish American War in 1898, he settled in New York City as a comicstrip cartoonist.  His friends--Glackens, Shinn, and Henri--encouraged him to begin to paint seriously, which he did, in dark tones and with a loose, flowing, almost brutal brushwork that in its unrefinement suited the streetlife subjects he choose to depict.

The art of Henri, and of the great seventeenth-century Dutch realist Hals--whose work he had studied in Europe--were the two most powerful influences on Luk's style: "Guts! Guts! Life! Life! That's my technique," he declared.  In 1905, when he painted Hester Street, he produced a number of his most important pictures, including The Spielers (Addison Gallery, North Andover, Massachusetts) and The Wrestlers (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).  Luks work found only disfavor among the art establishment, but it was very much at home in exhibitions such as that of The Eight in 1908.  Pictures like Hester Street reveal the new vitality and life that was infused into art in the opening decade of the twentieth century.  Looking at them, one thinks of similar scenes described in Abraham Cahan's classic novel of the life of an immigrant Jew in New York City, The Rise of David Levinsky (1917).

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