George Luks: The Watercolors Rediscovered

by Judith Hansen O'Toole



 

Chronology

 
1866
August 13th, George Benjamin Luks is born to Emil Charles Luks and Bertha Amalia von Kraemer Luks in Williamsport. The Luks have four children, each of them talented in the arts. The eldest child, Anna, becomes a singer in Lillian Russel's company; Leo excels as a violinist; George works as an artist, and Will writes poetry, sings and composes.
 
1872
The Luks family moves from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, where they stay, except for two brief periods when they live in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and Vineland, New Jersey.
 
1882
Begins a vaudeville act with his brother Will under the stage name of "Buzzey & Anstock" touring Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
 
1883
November, fire destroys the town of Shenandoah, prompting the Luks brothers to give up their act and return home to help their family.
 
1884
April, George enrolls at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, staying only one month.
 
1889
October, Luks enrolls at the Staatliche, Kunstakademie, at the Düsseldorf Academy, where he studies for only a short time.
 
c. 1890
Luks travels to Paris and London after his study in Düsseldorf. Enjoys the work of Rembrandt, van Steen, Hals, and Renoir.
 
1891
Luks returns to the United States. His illustrations appear in Puck and Truth, humor magazines.
 
1892
May, Luks returns to Europe. While there he visits the Prado in Madrid. There he enjoys the work of Velasquez and Goya.
 
1893
Luks returns to the United States. While returning he paints Ponta Delgada, one of his earliest examples of watercolor.
 
1894
Luks joins the staff of the Philadelphia Press as an illustrator. He moves into a one room flat with Everett Shinn at the corner of Eighth and Chestnut. Through their work at the Philadelphia Press Luks and Everett Shinn become acquainted with William Glackens, a fellow employee. Shinn then meets John Sloan through his next job at the Inquirer. Through Sloan, Luks and Shinn begin attending the informal Tuesday evening discussion group hosted by Robert Henri at his 806 Walnut Street studio. Henri's interest in the plight of the common man and America, in general, was also central to Luks work.
 
1894 - 95
Luks is associated with the "Philadelphia Five," which also includes: William Glackens, Everett Shinn, John Sloan, and Robert Henri.
 
1895
Luks leaves the Philadelphia Press to join the staff of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. In December of this year Luks leaves for Cuba. He serves as a war correspondent in Cuba for the Evening Bulletin.
 
1896
January - March, The Bulletin publishes thirty of Luks drawings of Cuba. March, Luks is reportedly fired from The Bulletin for drunkenness and for failure to submit work regularly. While in Cuba he does two watercolors, In Havana and Cuban Dancers. April, Luks moves to New York where he begins working for The New York World as an illustrator. In the fall, Luks begins to draw for the comic strip The Yellow Kid. He continues this strip until December 1897.
 
1899
Luks leaves The New York World to become the chief cartoonist for The Verdict.
 
1900
Exhibits a painting entitled Street Scene: East Side New York at the Pennsylvania Academy's Sixty-Ninth Annual Exhibition (Jan. 15 - Feb. 24). This is the first time he participates in a major exhibition. Luks receives his first significant recognition through a review of the exhibition written by R. Armstrong.
 
1901
Exhibits oil paintings at a group show in the Allan Gallery which was organized by Robert Henri and included Sloan, Glackens, Alfred Maurer and two others.
 
c. 1902
Luks marries the first of his three wives, Lois, who bears his only child, a son, Kent. George and his son are to have no relationship after his subsequent divorce from Lois.
 
c. 1902 - 03
Travels to Paris and England, leaving his pregnant wife in New York. They are later, legally separated. While in France he paints a series of wooden panels of Parisian scenes as well as On the Marne, which he sketches. In the late Teens, he does an impressionistic watercolor of the scene. Returns to America within the same year.
 
1902
Leaves the newspaper to devote his energy to painting. William Macbeth becomes Luk's dealer. His watercolor, Heckscher Building, has been dated to circa 1902.
 
1903
This is the first time Luks' work is included in a major New York show in the Society of American Artists Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Exhibition. Also exhibits at The Pennsylvania Academy's Seventy-Second Annual Exhibition (Jan. 19 - Feb. 28).
 
1904
George marries Emma Louise Noble, sister of a newspaper acquaintance. He returns to Paris for a brief trip. He also becomes a member of the Society of American Artists. Exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago's Seventeenth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings & Sculpture (Oct. 20 - Nov. 27). Also exhibits with the core group of what would become "The Eight" at the National Arts Club in January.
 
1905
Exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy's One Hundredth Anniversary Exhibition (Jan. 23 - March 4) and the Society of American Artists Twenty-Seventh Annual Exhibition. Exhibits at the Carnegie Institute's Tenth Annual Exhibition (Nov. 2, 1905 - Jan. 1, 1906). Paints his masterpiece, The Spielers, (Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts).
 
1906
Joins a new graphics and watercolor group in controversy with the American Watercolor Society, which quickly disbanded without a show. Exhibits at the Modern Art Gallery with Henri, Glackens, Shinn, and Ernest Lawson.
 
1907
Exhibits at the New Orleans Art Association (Jan. 4 - 16). May, Luks' painting, "Man with Dyed Mustachios" is rejected by the National Academy of Design, despite Robert Henri's protest. This prompts Henri to withdraw from the Academy and to later form "The Eight."
 
1908
"The Eight," among other factors, is formed from the pre-existing "Philadelphia Five" with the addition of Maurice Prendergast, Arthur B. Davies, and Ernest Lawson. The group exhibits at Macbeth Gallery, (Feb. 3 - 15). They also have a travelling show entitled "Paintings by Eight American Artists Residing in New York & Boston" which begins at the Art Institute of Chicago (Sept. 8 - Oct. 7) and travels to the Toldeo Museum of Art (Oct.); to the Detroit Museum of Art (Dec.); to the Indianapolis Art Association (Jan. 6 - 29); Cincinnati Art Museum (Feb. 6 - 28); to the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh (March 5 - 31); Bridgeport, Ohio; and ending in Newark in June of 1909. Exhibits in Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Institute's Twelfth Annual Exhibition (April 30 - June 30). Exhibits at the Corcoran's Second Biennial Exhibition of Oil Paintings by Contemporary American Artists (Dec. 8, 1908 - Jan. 12, 1909). Elected as an associate member of the National Academy of Design.
 
1909
In addition to the above-mentioned travelling exhibition, Luks exhibits in Buffalo at the Albright Art Gallery and in New York at Macbeth Gallery and with "The Eight" in Berlin.
 
1910
April, Luks has first one-man show at Macbeth Gallery. Despite urgings from his friends in "The Eight," Luks declines from exhibiting at the 1910 Independent Show to focus on his show at Macbeth's.
 
1911
Luks joins the American Watercolor Society, exhibiting Madonna of the Vegetables. Exhibits in Buffalo, Indianapolis, St. Louis, New Orleans, and at Rome's International Exposition.
 
1912
Exhibits in New York at the Folsom Gallery and with the National Association of Portrait Painters.
 
1913
Luks exhibits at the Armory Show in New York City and becomes a member of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors. He also moves to High Bridge, on the upper west side of Manhattan near the Hudson River, from his Greenwich Village apartment. This becomes a significant locale for his works executed during the 1910s and early 1920s. Luks exhibits at New York's Kraushaar Gallery. He would exhibit there regularly until 1924. Also began exhibiting at the New York Water Color Club's annual exhibitions continuing until 1917. Additional exhibits in Baltimore, Chicago, Rochester, and St. Louis.
 
1914
July, a group of Luks watercolors and drawings appear in Vanity Fair after having been exhibited in his one-man show at Kraushaar's Gallery. This is the first publication of his work in Vanity Fair, an association that would continue for the next twenty years. Exhibits at the New York Water Color Club's Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Exhibition with Philosopher. Also exhibits at Pennsylvania Academy, National Association of Portrait Painters, and the Corcoran.
 
1915
Exhibits at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Paints the watercolors Plucking Chickens, River Boats, Gossip, Playing Soldiers and Harlem River.
 
1916
Luks receives the Hudnut Watercolor Prize at the New York Water Color Club's Twenty-Seventh Annual Exhibition for his work, On The Marne. He is also awarded the William A. Clark Prize and an honorable mention both from the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. Also exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy and the Art Institute of Chicago. Becomes a member of the Society of Independent Artists, of which his friends William Glackens and John Sloan are presidents. Luks is on the advisory board. Commences exhibiting at the Toledo Museum of Art's Annual Exhibitions of American Painters (1916 - 1923, 1926 - 27, 1932 - 33).
 
1917
Exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy and the Art Institute of Chicago. Also has a one-man show at the Newark Museum.
 
1918
Luks wins the Temple Gold Medal at the Pennsylvania Academy; exhibits at the Indianapolis Art Association and the Art Institute of Chicago. Exhibits at the Milwaukee Art Institute with Augustus Vincent Tack and John Sloan. In a one-man show at Kraushaar Gallery he exhibits sixteen watercolors and fourteen oils. He spends time that autumn in Connecticut with his friend, the sculptor of Mt. Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum. While there he executes a series of Czechoslovakian theme paintings inspired by his time spent with Czech emigrés who were also staying with Borglum. Luks also paints a series of French scenes taken from a sketchbook of renderings done in the early 1900s. Watercolors from this series include Verdun, France, Rue Royal, Night, On the Seine, Serene (Paris) and Cathedral. Other watercolors done during Luks' World War I period include: Art Student, Lamp Light, Harlem Bridge and High Bridge.
 
1919
Luks summers in Nova Scotia where he paints a series of oils and watercolors. Luks exhibits at the Corcoran, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy (where he serves as a juror of painting) and exhibits in the first exhibition of the Society of American Painters, Sculptors, and Gravers at the Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York.
 
1920
January, Luks exhibits his Nova Scotia work at the Kraushaar Gallery to good reviews. He wins the Logan Medal at the Art Institute of Chicago for his painting Otis Skinner. He begins teaching at the Art Students League in New York.
 
1921
Exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts One Hundred Sixteenth Annual Exhibition. Travels to the Schuylkill Coal Region of Pennsylvania where he will return in 1923, 1925, and in 1927. While visiting there he begins a series of watercolors. Also exhibits six of his watercolors at the Rochester Memorial Art
Gallery in a show entitled Watercolors by Nine American Artists (Jan.). This show travels to the Toldeo Museum of Art and the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy (Albright Art Gallery) in the same year. Works exhibited: Euniskillers Lodge, The Runaway, Fifth Lake Carry, The Screecher, Guides in a Storm and Trout Fishing.
 
1922
Luks exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago's Watercolor Exhibition (Spring Street and The Candy Woman) (April 15 - May 15). He becomes ill and enters a sanitarium after he separates from his second wife. He then goes to Boston where he stays with a former student, patron, and friend, Mrs. Q.A. Shaw McKean, formerly Margaret Sargeant. There he paints several oils and does another series of watercolors. He also does a series of watercolors inspired by his summer visit to Pond Cove, Maine. Across the Inlet and Maine Island are two such works. In October, He exhibits his Maine work at the Kraushaar Gallery. Exhibits Spring Street at the Pennsylvania Academy and The Cleveland Museum of Art's Second Annual Watercolor Exhibition (Nov. 15 - Dec. 15).
 
1923
In January Luks has a retrospective show of 39 of his works at the Kraushaar Gallery. Luks also exhibits at the Brooklyn Museum's watercolor exhibition (Nov. 19 - Dec 20th) showing: Mike Cummins and A Daughter of the Mines. Additionally, he exhibits at Saint Louis City Art Museum's International Watercolor Exhibition. Also shows at the Pennsylvania Academy and the Art Institute of Chicago.
 
1924
Luks' last year in association with the Kraushaar Gallery. He stops teaching at the Art Students League and exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago.
 
1925
Opens the George Luks School of Painting in midtown Manhattan. He teaches at this school until his death in 1933 at which point John Sloan succeeds him. Luks has an exhibition of his "Anthracite" paintings, watercolors, and drawings at the Rehn Galleries. Rehn respresents him until his death. This group of work is based upon his experiences in the Anthracite coal mining region of northern Pennsylvania. His second marriage ends in divorce. Luks forfeits a sizeable block of his work to his ex-wife in the divorce settlement. Luks arranges a temporary studio this summer in his childhood hometown of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy and the Art Institute of Chicago. Luks buys a farmhouse in Old Chatham, New York in the Berkshire Mountains for a summer home. He paints a series of watercolors there over the next several years.
 
1926
Luks wins the Logan Medal at the Art Institute of Chicago. Also participates in the Art Institute of Chicago's International Watercolor Exhibition (The Miner and Market, Early Morning). Exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy and begins exhibiting annually at the Cleveland Museum of Art's annual watercolor exhibition (1926 - 1929).
 
1927
Luks marries Mercedes Carbonell, a Cuban woman many years his junior (aged twenty-eight). Luks wins the Gold Medal at the Locust Club exhibition in Philadelphia. He exhibits a series of Pennsylvania mining watercolors at the Rehn Galleries. Exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy and the Art Institute of Chicago.
 
1928
Exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy and the Corcoran.
 
c. 1928
Luks executes a series of watercolors at the estate of his friend, Harrison Tweed, at Montauk, Long Island.
 
1929
Luks exhibits at the Fifth Biennial Watercolor Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum (Jan. 21 - Feb. 18) showing: By the Pond, Hickman's Church, The Waterfall and Where the Coal Begins. He also exhibits The Waterfall at the the Pennsylvania Academy's Twenty-Seventh Annual Watercolor Exhibition.
 
1930
Exhibits at the the Pennsylvania Academy, the Corcoran, the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Seventeenth International Exhibition in Venice, Italy.
 
c. 1930
Moved to Gramercy Park from High Bridge.
 
1931
Jan. 5 - 24th, Luks exhibits his oils and watercolors at Rehn Galleries, New York. Exhibits at the Twenty-Ninth Annual Watercolor Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy, showing three works: Corner Bridge, Schoolhouse and Village Church. He also exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago.
 
1932
Luks takes a trip to Hadlyme, Connecticut, where he does the last series of watercolors before his death. Luks wins the William A. Clark Prize and the Corcoran Gold Medal in Washington. D.C.'s Corcoran Gallery. He exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy's Annual Watercolor Exhibition, showing three works: Hotel Craryville, Old Quaker Meeting House and House in the Woods. He also exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago.
 
1933
Exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy's Thirty-First Annual Watercolor Exhibition, showing three works: The Annual Hamburg Fair, The Seven Sisters and Hadlyme Sunset. Exhibits at Cleveland Museum of Art's Tenth Annual Watercolor Exhibition. October 29, Luks is found dead on the streets of New York, a casualty of a speakeasy brawl.
 
1934
Memorial Exhibitions of the Work of George Benjamin Luks, Newark Museum, Vose Galleries and Rehn Gallery.
 
1942
Included in survey watercolor exhibition at the Whitney Museum.
 
1950
Estate sale of Luks paintings and drawings at Parke-Bernet Auction Galleries, New York.
 
1951
Sale of watercolors and oils given to Emma Luks Frankenberg in 1921 (ex-wife), Parke-Bernet Auction Galleries, New York.
 
1957
Exhibition of watercolors at The Rehn Gallery, New York.
 
1958
One-man show at Washington Irving Gallery, as part of the anniversary of "The Eight" show; watercolors and drawings.
 
1961
One-man show at ACA American Heritage Gallery: oils and watercolors.
 
1965
One-man show at ACA American Heritage Gallery: sketchbooks.
 
1966
One-man show at Joan Peterson Gallery, Boston: oils and watercolors from Shaw-McKean Collection.
 
1967
Centennial Exhibit at Williamsport and Lock Haven, Pennsylvania: paintings and graphics represented in 200 Years of Watercolor Painting in America at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrospective exhibit at ACA Galleries.
 
1968
One-man show at ACA Galleries.
 
1970
The Watercolors of George Luks: A Thesis in Art History, dissertation written by Ralph Clayes Talcott for the Pennsylvania State University.
 
1973
George Luks (1866 - 1933), Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, New York.
 
1974
George Luks Watercolor Exhibition, Childs Gallery, Boston.
 
1987
George Luks: An American Artist, Sordoni Art Gallery, Wilkes College, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, May 3 - June 14, 1987.
 
1994 - 95
George Luks: Expressionist Master of Color-- The Watercolors Rediscovered, Canton Museum of Art (travels to Westmoreland Museum of Art, Greensburg, Pennsylvania and the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio).

 

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