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George Tooker papers, 1930-1973

George Tooker papers, 1930-1973

Tooker, George, 1920-

Painter, Printmaker

Collection Information

Size: 1.5 linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter George Tooker measure 1.5 linear feet and date from circa 1930 to 1973. The papers document Tooker's personal and professional life through biographical material, correspondence, project files, printed material, artwork and one sketchbook, and 209 photographs, including some taken by noted photographer George Platt Lynes.

Biographical material consists of an address book, resume, biographical essay, and papers regarding Tooker's education.

Correspondence is with friends, colleagues, and organizations. Correspondents include Isabel Bishop, Paul Cadmus, Walter Bachinski, William Christopher, Otto Dix, Jared and Margaret French, Ralph Ginzburg, Xavier Gonzalez, Robert Isaacson, Edward Laning, Lincoln Kirstein, Lee Nordness, Bernard Perlin, Joan Peterson, Theodore Stamos, Bridget Tichenor, and others.

Project files document Tooker's commissions including the set and costume design for Gian-Carlo Menotti's opera, "The Saint of Bleecker Street" and Tooker's participation in the selection of candidates for the Vestris Prize for Choreography. Files contain correspondence, business documents, printed ephemera, sketches, photographs, three volumes of vocal scores, and textile samples.

Printed material consists of a book entitled, "Conversations with Artists" by Selden Rodman that includes a transcript of a conversation with Tooker, two scrapbooks containing news clippings and annotations about Tooker's artwork and exhibitions, press releases, and miscellaneous invitations and announcements.

Artwork includes one sketchbook, loose drawings, and sketches from Tooker's studies at the Art Students' League in the mid 1940s.

Photographs primarily consist of black and white photographs taken by George Platt Lynes and PaJaMa in the mid to late 1940s. A majority of the photographs depict artists and friends, among them: George Tooker and his companion William Christopher, Paul Cadmus, Jared and Margaret French, Lincoln and Fidelma Kirstein, Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler, and Bridget Tichenor. Other photographs are of Tooker building his home, gardening, and working in his studio in Hartland, Vermont. Also included are installation views from the exhibition, "Painting in the United States" (1949) at the Carnegie Institute in Pennsylvania.

Biographical/Historical Note

George Tooker (1920-2011) was a painter based in Hartland, Vermont and New York, New York.


George Tooker donated his papers to the Archives of American Art in 1973.

Related Materials

A Finding Aid to the George Tooker Papers, circa 1930-1973, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
George Tooker (1920-2011) was a painter based in Hartland, Vermont and New York, New York. Tooker was born in Brooklyn, New York on August 5, 1920 to George Clair Tooker and Angela Montejo Roura. He graduated from preparatory school at Phillips Academy, Andover in 1938 and received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Harvard University in 1942. Tooker studied drawing and painting under Reginald Marsh, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and Harry Sternberg at the Art Students’ League from circa 1944 to 1945.
Tooker became acquainted with American painter Paul Cadmus while studying at the Art Students’ League. Cadmus introduced Tooker to a circle of artists and writers living and working in New York and Europe in the mid to late 1940s that included George Platt Lynes, Jared and Margaret French, Monroe Wheeler, Glenway Westcott, and Lincoln and Fidelma Kirstein.
In 1953, Tooker was commissioned by writer and philanthropist Lincoln Kirstein to design the sets and costumes for
The Saint of Bleecker Street
, an opera by Gian-Carlo Menotti. In 1966, the Wasemquia Charitable Trust sponsored the Vestris Prize for Choreography in cooperation with the Boston Ballet Company and Tooker was invited by trustee Henry H. Crapo to participate on the Committee of Judges for the Vestris Prize. In 1968, NASA commissioned Tooker to produce drawings and one painting documenting the development of spacecraft at the Goddard Space Flight Center located in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Tooker’s paintings are found in numerous art museums and galleries including the Whitney Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, DC Moore Gallery, Robert Isaacson Gallery, and the Venice Biennale. In 1968, Tooker’s paintings were featured in the art magazine,
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 6 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1932-1968 (Box 1; 5 Folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1932-1973 (Box 1; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 3: Project Files, 1939-1968 (Boxes 1, 3; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 4: Printed Material, circa 1945-1968 (Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 5: Artwork and Sketchbook, circa 1943-1945 (Boxes 1, 3; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1930-1970 (Boxes 1-3; 0.2 linear feet)
George Tooker donated his papers to the Archives of American Art in 1973.
Processing Information note
The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Elissa L. Jerome in 2016.

Additional Forms Available

Portions of the collection are available on 35 mm microfilm reels, 678-679 and 692, at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the collection as described in this finding aid does not reflect the order of the collection on microfilm due to processing.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.

How to Cite This Collection

George Tooker papers, 1930-1973. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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