Saturday, 13 June 2015


With his classically inspired egg temperas of the mundane occurrences of everyday life – travelling, queuing for a licence – Tooker captures with perhaps more success than any other painter that sort of quiet, eerie anxiety that pervades modern urban spaces, where people take care not to look too long at each other's faces.

Some works drift to dream spaces where there are endless prison cells or bedsheets transformed into quicksand. Yet Tooker rejected the notion he painted fantasy, stating he desired to create "reality impressed on the mind so hard that it returns as a dream.” Not dreams then, but glimpses of how things really are.

The Subway, 1950, Egg tempera on composition board, 46 x 91.8 cm. Whitney Museum of American Art.

The Waiting Room, 1959, Egg Tempera on Wood, 61 x 76.2 cm, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The Sleepers, 1959, Egg Tempera on Wood Panel, 40.8 x 71.1 cm, Moma.
Terminal, 1986.

Government Bureau, 1956, Egg Tempera on Wood, 49.8 x 75.2 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Landscape with Figures, 1965-66, Egg tempera on gessoed panel, Private Collection.
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