Detail in Focus

The Miner, 1925

George Luks

George Luks (1867-1933), a founder of the Ashcan School in early 20th-century New York City, was among the first urban artists to paint scenes and subjects from everyday life. He deliberately focused on laborers, street performers and gritty urban types instead of the more commercially popular subjects of polished ladies and gentlemen. His painting called The Miner embodies the Ashcan mantra “Art for life’s sake” rather than “art for art’s sake.” Follow this link to take a closer look at the sitter’s blackened hands. Painted in a colorful patchwork of broad, decisive brushstrokes, the miner’s hands suggest the grueling nature of his daily work, as well as his physical strength. Luk’s heavy strokes create the impression that the miner has just emerged from underground with his hands heavily streaked with dirt and coal.

The Miner, George Luks, dated 1925 (Collection: National Gallery of Art)

Sadly, Luks' own hard lifestyle caught up with him. The police discovered his dead body in the doorway of a building, presumably from a bar brawl the previous night.

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