George Tooker was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1920. At the insistence of his parents, Tooker attended Harvard University and majored in English literature, but he knew he wanted to be a painter. He finally got the opportunity to study art and began studying with Reginald Marsh at the Art Students League of New York. While there he met painter Paul Cadmus, with whom he would remain life long friends. Cadmus introduced him to the egg-tempera technique. Painting in this technique caused George Tooker to paint very slowly and purposefully. He only completed a few paintings a year. Some of his earlier work was often frequently compared to that of Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper.
George Tooker’s subject matter often explored modern-day issues of social withdrawal and isolation. An excellent example of this is Subway in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and perhaps his best known painting. By the early 1950s, he was gaining recognition through exhibitions and solo gallery shows. This success continued through to the 1970s. In 1973, George Tooker had a major survey exhibition with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the exhibition traveled to Chicago, New York, and Indianapolis.
He is known for painting eerie situations with mythic overtones that have a powerful presence on the canvas. George Tooker died in 2001 after complications from kidney failure.