Friday, August 12, 2016

Arty Farty Friday ~ George Luks + a Conundrum

An arty farty conundrum: which natal chart best suits American painter George Luks? Wikipedia has his date of birth as 13 August 1867, but other websites state 13 August 1866. Checking at, the genealogy website, the question remains without a clear answer. The artist's gravestone states 1866, as does a passport application, yet there is still confusion; several documents state 1867 or "about 1868", muddying the waters further.

Here are a few lines from a couple of biographies to give some idea of the artist's personality, which could provide an astrological clue to an accurate birth year...or not.


Luks was a born rebel and one of the most distinctive personalities in American art. "He is Puck. He is Caliban. He is Falstaff," his contemporary, the art critic James Gibbons Huneker, wrote. Like many of the later Abstract Expressionist men, he made a great display of his masculinity and could seldom retreat from a dare. He took pride in being known as the "bad boy" of American art, liked to characterize himself as entirely self-created, and downplayed the influence of Robert Henri, or any contemporary, on his artistic development. He was given to hyperbolic statements and was often intentionally vague about autobiographical details, preferring to maintain an aura of self-mythologizing mystery. He was equally at home at a prize fight or in a tavern as in a museum or a gallery. Luks was always a heavy drinker, and his friend and one-time roommate William Glackens often had to undress him and haul him to bed after a night of drunken debauchery. Although many sources confirm this tendency, they also characterize him as a man with a kind heart who befriended people living on the edge who became subjects for his works of art. Examples of this are numerous: e.g., Widow McGee (1902) or The Old Duchess and The Rag Picker (both of 1905), in which Luks depicted with sensitivity elderly, down-and-out women who knew the harsh realities of the street. Luks was a paradox: a man of enormous egotism and a great generosity of spirit.

George Luks created striking paintings of slum-dwellers before dying a mysterious death at a speakeasy in 1933.
BY David J. Krajicek

A few years back, a Sotheby’s auctioneer banged his gavel on a $1.9 million winning bid for an oil painting of a little girl named Lily Williams, a red-cheeked ragamuffin from the East Side slums whose blue eyes sparkle like sapphires. The artist was George Luks, an Ashcan School painter who a century ago stalked the tattered precincts of New York for subjects.
“A child of the slums will make a better painting than a drawing-room lady gone over by a beauty shop,” Luks said. “Down there, people are what they are.”

Eight decades after Luks died mysteriously in a midtown doorway, his star is ascending. In November, another of his slum urchin portraits, “In the Corner,” sold for nearly $800,000. The artist would be mystified. And he might just poke some fancy-shmancy fat cat art snob in the schnoz, for the heck of it.

Luks was the bad boy artist of his era, a brawler and boozer who loved nothing more than to light into the smarty-pants set. In one headline example, he called art patrons suckers during a drunken lecture at the Artists’ Cooperative Market in Manhattan in 1932.

“This country has been imposed upon by French superior salesmanship,” Luks growled. “It is the victim of cheap little lawyers who become diplomats, and financiers who let their wives buy pictures from dealers who perfume them with bombast and saddle them with trash.” When people hooted, he put up his dukes and called on his alter-ego.

“If you don’t like my talk get out,” he said. “You’re not talking to George Luks now. You’re talking to Chicago Whitey, the best amateur boxer and barroom fighter in America.” Luks had done some boxing in his younger days, but he was 65 years old. And time would prove that he was no better than America’s second-best barroom fighter.

He was born in Williamsport, Pa., two years after the Civil War ended. He was the son of immigrants, a Polish father and Bavarian mother.

Noon Chart for 13 August 1867, Williamsport, PA.

Noon chart for 13 August 1866, Williamsport, PA.

On balance I like the 1867 chart better than the 1866 chart for George Luks - my choice is based on the necessary premise that Moon was in Aquarius - a birth around, or after, noon would be required for that. Early Aquarius Moon would put it in semi-sextile to Jupiter in Pisces. This aspect would combine the rebelliousness of Aquarius with the generosity of spirit, hyperbole, yet an underlying softness from Jupiter in Pisces. Those are characteristics described in the excerpts quoted above.

Leo Sun trines Neptune in both charts, which might relate to his apparent addiction to alcohol.

Mars, said to represent masculinity and energy, in the 1867 chart would trine Aquarius Moon if born around, or after, noon. That could be a link to his wished-for "bad boy brawler" reputation.

Though there are possible arguments for the 1866 chart too, I don't get quite the same rebellious feel to it overall as for the 1867 chart, provided it had Moon in Aquarius, requiring noon or later birth-time. I'm not equipped to calculate a likely rising sign from a possible Moon in Aquarius - perhaps commenter mike would assist on that? Rising sign is another important piece of missing information which could make a big difference in choosing which chart is the better fit.

This blog, of Poul Webb, has a selection of Luks' paintings nicely displayed. Or, for an overall look at his paintings see Google Image HERE.

I especially like:

 Spring Morning, New York.


 Girl Under Arched Bridge


mike said...

Well now...I have a preference for the Aug 13, 1868 chart...LOL.
(chart is for noon CDT, which would be noon EST in PA)

His profile indicates he was social and outgoing, so I would say the bulk of his planets were 7th through 12th houses in the 1868 chart.

Most accounts put his year as 1867, but as you said, 1866 is viable, too. Anybody's guess it seems, but if I had to choose between 1866 and 1867, like you, 1867 is the winner! But I still prefer 1868.

Twilight said...

mike ~ He seems not to have known his own year of birth, for certain! I guess that happened a lot, way back when, with immigrant parents who perhaps struggled with the English language, and paper records of birth lost or non-existent.

I agree that an 1868 chart would be good for him, but "about 1868" is seen only at, I think. Their "abt." dates are used as a broad "-ish" indication when no official record can be found. I used to find this, when messing with my own family tree. I didn't find any website stating 1868 as a birth year for Luks though, but that's not to say it'd not be a possibility.

mike (again) said...

This gets interesting. Searching the PA birth records, George B. Luks had a son, Kent, in 1895. There is no birth record for George B. Luks. Wiki states Luks moved to NY City in 1896. The 1905 NYC census records show George B. Luks born in 1868 (estimated) and his age as 37.

George B Luks, NYC:

The next NYC census in 1915 has no George B. Luks, but does have a George Luck, born 1868, age 47:

mike (again) said...

And here are a number of records listed with various birth dates from 1866 to 1868:

This doesn't answer the riddle of his birth year, but I'm impressed with the online data available!

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Thanks - yes the mystery persists. I wonder if the confusion stems from his year of birth being estimated from his age, as reported by himself or someone else, to officials, without mention of the day and month, therefore leaving a query as to whether his birthday had passed or not, and causing a ? over the year.

I'm quite surprised no website has, at least, indicated that there could be a question mark over the year of his birth, perhaps stating "between 1866 and 1868" or "1866 or 1867", etc. Still, I suppose the exact year of his birth is of no great interest to anyone but astrologers or astrology dabblers like us. :-/

mike (again) said...

We'll have to celebrate his 150th birthday tomorrow, next year, and the year after...have a double Scotch in his honor, Twilight...cheers!

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Good idea! :-)