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Lot 182: George Benjamin Luks American, 1867-1933 Man and Child with Guitar (Portrait of the Artist's Brother with his Son), 1908Platinum House
November 5, 2013
New York, NY, USALive Auction
George Benjamin Luks
Man and Child with Guitar (Portrait of the Artist's Brother with his Son), 1908
Signed George Luks (lr); dated 1908 and signed George Luks on the reverse
Oil on canvas
28 5/8 x 29 1/2 inches
Mr. Arthur F. Egner, by 1914
Descended in the family of the owner
New York, Macbeth Gallery, George B. Luks, Apr. 14-27, 1910
New York, Kraushaar Galleries, Apr. 1914
Newark, NJ, Newark Museum Association, The Free Library, Paintings by a Few Modern American Painters Lent by Arthur F. Egner, Jan. 10-Feb. 10, 1917, no. 2
Newark, NJ, The Newark Museum, An Exhibition of the Work of George Benjamin Luks, Oct. 30, 1933-Jan. 6, 1934, no. 18, p. 42 illus., lent by Arthur F. Egner
Greensburg, PA, Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Artists of the Commonwealth: Realism and its Response in Pennsylvania Painting, 1900-1950, Feb. 26-May 21, 2006; Traveled to: Loretto, PA, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Aug. 4-Nov. 5, 2006; Erie, PA, Erie Art Museum, Dec. 1-Apr. 8, 2007; Doylestown, PA, James A. Michener Art Museum, May 19-Sept. 2, 2007
New York, Spanierman Gallery, LLC, American Masters 1840-1920, Feb. 14-Mar. 22, 2008
Fort Lauderdale, FL, Museum of Art, Nova Southeastern University, Return to the Ashcan, Oct. 20-Feb. 24, 2013
R[oyal] C[ortissoz], "Art Exhibitions: New Pictures by Mr. George Luks and Some Others," New York Tribune, Apr. 21, 1910, 7
"Art at Home and Abroad: Paintings by George Luks at Kraushaar," New York Times, Apr. 19, 1914, SM11.
"George Luks at Kraushaar's," Arts and Decoration 4 (June 1914), 320
Guy Pene du Bois, "The Collection of Arthur F. Egner," Arts and Decoration (August 1917), 475 illus., 476
"George B. Luks Found Dead in 6th Av. at Dawn," New York Times, Oct. 30, 1933, 1
Catalogue of an Exhibition of the Work of George Benjamin Luks. Exh. cat., Newark, NJ: Newark Museum, 1934, p. 42 illus., no. 18. [69 of the 110 works in the exhibition were oils; The Guitar was one of twenty-two oils that were illustrated; see also Lil, no. 23]
Betsy Fahlman. Artists of the Commonwealth: Realism and Its Response in Pennsylvania Painting, 1900-1950. Exh. cat., Greensburg, PA: Westmoreland Museum of American Art, 2006, pp. 33 color illus., 34, 71
Return to the Ashcan. Exh. cat., Fort Lauderdale, FL: Museum of Art, Nova Southeastern University, 2012, p. 45 color illus. no. 20
With its brilliant and rich brushwork against a dark background, The Guitar is a classic and important Ashcan School painting from the finest period in the artist's career. It was included in every major Luks exhibition, from his first showcase at Macbeth Gallery in 1910 to his 1934 retrospective at the Newark Museum. Recently it was selected to represent the artist in Return to the Ashcan (2013). Conveying the joy of music, which was an important part of Luks's life, the painting expresses the theme of music as a binding force between generations. The critics acknowledged the importance of this painting. In 1914, it was called as "the masterpiece of its maker" and referred to as "now famous" and "the most noted of his paintings." Guy Pene du Bois described it in 1917 as "one of our great pictures." The painting was acquired directly from the artist by the important Ashcan School collector, Arthur F. Egner, a New Jersey based lawyer and founding member of the Newark Museum, who was a friend and patron of the artist. It descended in Egner's family until 1988.
The following essay was written by Luks scholar Judith Hansen O'Toole:
Painted in the year of the landmark exhibition of "The Eight" at the Macbeth Gallery, New York, which gave birth to the "Ashcan School," this picture is a portrait of the artist's youngest, and closest, sibling, William D. Luks or "Will," and Will's firstborn son Daniel Wynkoop Luks, born in 1908.
The last of six children, George and Will were inseparable throughout childhood and in their adult lives. As young men, they performed as a vaudeville team, Buzzy (George) and Anstock, in the mid-1880s after a brief stint in Philadelphia where George attempted formal studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1896, George had moved to New York City to further his painting and work as an illustrator when Will visited him and promptly fell in love with his brother's fiance, winning her heart. Despite this, the brothers remained close and Will, who quit his medical studies at Johns Hopkins University in order to marry Anabelle Delanoy, moved to New York City and became superintendent of the Northern Dispensary, a medical clinic in Greenwich Village. George frequently visited the dispensary both as a patient and in order to sketch the clientele.
The influences of Frans Hals (Everett Shinn quoted Luks as saying that "the world has had only two great painters, George Luks and Frans Hals") and Robert Henri are clearly evident in this painting. Its insight into the intimate relationship of father to son, teacher to pupil is palpable. The subdued palette, with the exception of both sitters' ruddy skin tones, and dark background are hallmarks of the style that drove Luks' career in the early 1900s. Neither sitter looks at the artist: the father's joyful gaze is fixed on his infant child, the child's on the miraculous instrument at hand.
The only member of The Eight not to participate in the first Independent Show in 1910, Luks was saving his work for his first one-man exhibition at the Macbeth Gallery that same year, which included The Guitar. The piece was shown again in 1914 during the artist's second year of representation by the Kraushaar Gallery. It was then that his mentor, Robert Henri, dropped Luks a note saying: "Had a good time seeing your shows-fine new stuff and fine old stuff. The baby and guitar still the wonderful thing of human interest it always was, and fine color and character and humor of life in all things. May 5th Avenue get the tonic of a Geo. Luks show every year! Yours, Henri."
It might have been from this exhibition that Arthur F. Egner, founding member of the Newark Museum, friend and collector of Luks, acquired the painting. Later Guy Pene du Bois would single it out in an article on the Egner collection and compare its strengths to those of a good Rembrandt.
Since 1993, Judith Hansen O'Toole has been director/CEO of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
She is the author of "George Luks: An American Artist," in George Luks: An American Artist, exh. cat. (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.: Sordoni Art Gallery, Wilkes College, 1987); "George Luks: Rogue, Raconteur, and Realist" in Elizabeth Kennedy, ed., The Eight and American Modernisms (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 91-108; and George Luks: The Watercolors Rediscovered, exh. cat. (Canton, OH: Canton Museum of Art, 1994).
C The Spanierman Gallery, LLC
Frame rubbing, with corresponding inpaint. Glue relined. Scattered craquelure throughout, with some corresponding inpaint. There is 6 x 1 1/2 area of inpaint in the center left, running from the background into the face of the man. Restoration in the face of the child. There is some scattered wrinkling from relining.
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