George Benjamin Luks

George Luks was born on August 13, 1867 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Luks received his first art instruction from his parents who pursued painting as a hobby. At seventeen he entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Later he went to Düsseldorf where he lived with a distant relative, a retired lion-tamer. He abandoned Düsseldorf for the more stimulating spheres of London and Paris. When he returned to America he worked as an artist for Philadelphia newspapers. In 1896 he was sent to Cuba as a war artist; rumor had it he was captured by the Spaniards and condemned to death as a spy, but he was deported instead and landed in New York, cold, hungry and broke.

In 1894 he joined the staff of the “Philadelphia Press” as an illustrator. He moved into a one-room flat with fellow illustrator, Everett Shinn. Through his illustration work, Luks became acquainted with William Glackens, John Sloan and eventually Robert Henri and these artists including Shinn later became known as the Philadelphia Five.

In April of 1896, after serving as a war correspondent in Cuba, Luks moved to New York City where he joined the staff of the “New York World” and began to draw a comic strip. He spent some time doing comic strips and then gave up newspaper work to devote his full energies to painting. His early experience as a newspaper artist had stimulated his interest in the American scene. Choosing the sidewalks of New York City as his province he proceeded to paint the subjects he saw there with a frankness that dismayed the academicians. He turned to landscape painting with enthusiasm.

Luks taught at the Art Students League from 1920 through 1924 and he later conducted his own classes in his own studio. Luk’s personality was as famous as his paintings. A loud, boastful but purportedly good-humored man, he was also a heavy drinker. On October 29, 1933, he was found dead on the streets of New York City, a casualty of a barroom brawl.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition: Miniatures: The Eight