While Tooker’s paintings typically convey his passionate desire for social harmony and justice, Government Bureau represents a darker, more pessimistic dimension of his art. The work takes the viewer inside a cold, starkly lit interior filled with anonymous bodies and cubicles. Eerily, the circular windows in the cubicle walls reveal nothing but the tired, sad eyes of government employees staring blankly. The scene’s unsettling remoteness is accentuated by Tooker’s fine and detailed technique, rooted in Italian Renaissance egg-tempera painting.
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Artist:George Tooker (American, Brooklyn, New York 1920–2011 Hartland, Vermont)
Medium:Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions:19 5/8 × 29 5/8 in. (49.8 × 75.2 cm)
Credit Line:George A. Hearn Fund, 1956
Inscription: Signed (lower right): TOOKER
[Edwin Hewitt Gallery, New York, 1956; sold to MMA]
New York. Robert Isaacson Gallery. "George Tooker," March 9–April 2, 1960, no. 2.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Three Centuries of American Painting," April 9–October 17, 1965, unnum. checklist.
Hanover, N.H. Jaffe-Friede Gallery, Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College. "George Tooker," August 5–September 5, 1967, no. 12 (dated 1955).
New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Human Concern/Personal Torment: The Grotesque in American Art," October 14–November 30, 1969, no. 163.
University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley. "Human Concern/Personal Torment: The Grotesque in American Art," January 20–March 1, 1970, no. 163.
Bloomington. Indiana University Art Museum. "The American Scene, 1900–1970: An Exhibition of Twentieth Century Painting Held in Honor of the Sesquincentennial of Indiana University," April 6–May 17, 1970, no. 65.
San Diego. La Jolla Museum of Art. "Continuing Surrealism," January 15–March 21, 1971, no. 50.
Genoa. Palazzo dell'Accademia, Palazzo Reale. "Immagine per la Città," April 8–June 11, 1972, no. 42 (as "Ufficio Governativo").
Syracuse, N.Y. Everson Museum of Art. May 1–22, 1974, no catalogue.
Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "George Tooker: Paintings 1947–1973," July 13–September 2, 1974, no. 10.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. "George Tooker: Paintings 1947–1973," September 7–October 20, 1974, no. 10.
New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "George Tooker: Paintings 1947–1973," December 5, 1974–January 5, 1975, no. 10.
Indianapolis Museum of Art. "George Tooker: Paintings 1947–1973," January 28–March 16, 1975, no. 10.
Moscow. State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. "Representations of America," December 15, 1977–February 15, 1978, no catalogue.
Leningrad. State Hermitage Museum. "Representations of America," March 15–May 15, 1978, no catalogue.
Minsk, Belarus. Palace of Art. "Representations of America," June 15–August 15, 1978, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Tribute to a Curator: Robert Beverly Hale," November 16, 1978–March 4, 1979, extended to March 18, 1979, unnum. checklist.
Washington, D.C. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. "Dreams and Nightmares: Utopian Visions in Modern Art," December 8, 1983–February 12, 1984, no. 109.
Andover, Mass. Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy. "George Tooker: 50 Years of Paintings and Study Drawings," January 21–April 3, 1994, no catalogue.
New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "City of Ambition: Artists & New York, 1900–1960," July 3–October 27, 1996, unnumbered cat. (p. 142).
New York. National Academy Museum. "George Tooker: A Retrospective," October 2, 2008–January 4, 2009, unnumbered cat. (pl. 27).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Kerry James Marshall Selects: Works from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 25, 2016–January 29, 2017, no catalogue (p. 267 in "Kerry James Marshall: Mastry" exhibition catalogue).
Allen S. Weller. ART USA NOW. Ed. Lee Nordness. New York, 1963, vol. 2, pp. 349–50, 471, fig. 2.
Washington Post (June 30, 1963), p. G6, ill.
Michael Benedikt in Allen S. Weller. ART USA NOW. Ed. Lee Nordness. New York, 1963, vol. 2, between pp. 348–49, dates it 1955.
Henry Geldzahler. American Painting in the Twentieth Century. New York, 1965, p. 160, ill.
Robert L. Isaacson. George Tooker. Exh. cat., Jaffe-Friede Gallery, Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College. Hanover, N.H., 1967, unpaginated, no. 12, ill.
Jerrold Morris. On the Enjoyment of Modern Art. 2nd rev. ed. [1st ed. 1965]. Greenwich, Conn., 1968, pp. 49, 69, pl. 12.
Emily Genauer. "On the Arts: Display of Grotesque Suffers from Gore." Newsday (October 25, 1969), p. 39W, ill. (detail).
Tony Ward. "Totalitarianism, Architecture and Conscience." Journal of Architectural Education (1947-1974) 24 (Autumn 1970), ill. p. 35.
Thomas Albright. "Concern and Torment at the U.C. Art Galleries." San Francisco Examiner (February 1, 1970), p. 35, ill. p. 36, calls it "Government Office".
Henry J. Seldis. "'Surrealism' a Scintillating Assembly." Los Angeles Times (March 14, 1971), p. T62.
Gianfranco Bruno inImmagine per la Città. Exh. cat., Ente Manifestazioni Genovesi. Genoa, 1972, pp. 2, 144, no. 42, ill. p. 37 (color), erroneously dates it 1966 in text.
Edmund Burke Feldman. Varieties of Visual Experience: Art as Image and Idea. 2nd ed., rev. and enl. (1st ed., 1967). New York, 1972, p. 55, ill. p. 57.
Marshall B. Davidson. The American Heritage History of the Artists' America. New York, 1973, pp. 358–59, ill.
Carl Ladensack. "The Amazing Labyrinth: An Ancient-Modern Humanities Unit." English Journal 62 (March 1973), pp. 404–5.
Alan G. Artner. "The Eloquence of Desperation, as Told by Tooker." Chicago Tribune (September 22, 1974), section 6, p. 17.
William Wilson. "Tooker and the Tempera of His Times." Los Angeles Times (August 11, 1974), p. 70.
Thomas H. Garver. George Tooker: Paintings 1947–1973. Exh. cat., Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor. San Francisco, 1974, unpaginated, no. 10, ill. (color).
Ralph Pomeroy. "George Tooker: A Master of Modern Dismay." New Lugano Review 8–9 (1976), pp. 38–39, ill. p. 56.
Shirley Glubok. The Art of America Since World War II. New York, 1976, p. 6, ill.
Kenneth Baker. "Tooker's Ambiguous Realism." Christian Science Monitor (April 5, 1977), p. 28, ill.
David K. Shipler. "Show of U.S. Paintings Opens in Moscow." New York Times (December 22, 1977), p. C18.
Greta Berman and Jeffrey Wechsler. Realism and Realities: The Other Side of American Painting, 1940–1960. Exh. cat., Rutgers University Art Gallery. New Brunswick, N. J., 1981, pp. 85–86, fig. 103.
David A. Grimsted. "Review: 'The Federal Presence: Architecture, Politics, and Symbols in United States Government Building' by Lois Craig and the Staff of the Federal Architecture Project." Winterthur Portfolio 16 (Summer–Autumn 1981), p. 230.
John Baker. "Report from New Brunswick: Representational Painting in the U.S.: 1940–60." Art in America 70 (November 1982), p. 23.
Paul Von Blum with editorial assistance and contributions by Mark Resnick. The Critical Vision: A History of Social and Political Art. Boston, 1982, p. 81, fig. 4-6.
Valerie J. Fletcher. Dreams and Nightmares: Utopian Visions in Modern Art. Exh. cat., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D. C., 1983, pp. 158, 184, no. 109, ill. (color).
Pamela Kessler. "Fond Hopes, Dark Visions." Washington Post (December 9, 1983), p. 45, ill. (detail).
Richard Maschal. "Life is But a Dream—or is it a Nightmare?" Charlotte Observer (January 29, 1984), p. 4A, ill. (detail).
Lois A. Craig and the staff of the Federal Architecture Project. The Federal Presence: Architecture, Politics, and National Design. Cambridge, Mass., 1984, ill. p. 538.
Alan G. Artner. "Exhibit Displays But Can't Reveal the Mysteries of Seymour Rosofsky." Chicago Tribune (February 17, 1985), pp. 20–21.
Elisabeth Stevens. "The Rediscovered Tooker." Sun (December 29, 1985), p. 11F.
Thomas H. Garver. George Tooker. San Francisco, 1992, pp. 10, 30, 35, 144, ill. p. 32 (color), dates it 1955–56 on p. 30; reproduces a pencil study for this work.
Nancy Stapen. "The Timeless World of George Tooker." Boston Globe (March 17, 1994), p. 64.
Alan G. Artner. "'It Was All I Could Do': Content of Social Conscience Distinguishes These Artists." Chicago Tribune (November 5, 1995), p. G10.
Thomas H. Garver inGeorge Tooker. Exh. cat., National Academy Museum. New York, 2008, pp. 14–15.
M. Melissa Wolfe inGeorge Tooker. Exh. cat., National Academy Museum. New York, 2008, pp. 28, 30.
Marshall N. Price inGeorge Tooker. Exh. cat., National Academy Museum. New York, 2008, pp. 61–62.
Anna C. Chave inGeorge Tooker. Exh. cat., National Academy Museum. New York, 2008, pp. 72, 75, colorpl. 27.
Ken Johnson. "Baleful Visions of Modernity, Mystically Rendered." New York Times (October 10, 2008), p. C33.
Edward J. Sozanski. "Beautiful Work, Long Neglected, is Given its Due." Philadelphia Inquirer (February 15, 2009), p. H5.
William Grimes. "George Tooker Dies at 90; Painter of Modern Anxiety." New York Times (March 30, 2011), p. A24.
Lawrence Downes. "Editorial: George Tooker." New York Times (April 7, 2011), p. A26.
Bridget Moore inGeorge Tooker: Reality Recurs as a Dream. Exh. cat., DC Moore Gallery. New York, 2011, pp. 9, 80, ill. pp. 26–27 (color).
Ian Alteveer inKerry James Marshall: Mastry. Ed. Helen Molesworth. Exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Chicago, 2016, pp. 265, 267, ill. (color).
Josephine Meckseper. "George Tooker's 'Government Bureau'." The Artist Project: What Artists See When They Look at Art. Ed. Chris Noey. New York, 2017, pp. 150–51, ill. (color).
In a 1956 artist's questionnaire, Tooker notes that "[t]he original impulse came from the Brooklyn Municipal Building".
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