The Torment of Saint Anthony

Following up on my George Tooker posting: an NPR Morning Edition Saturday story by Nina Keck, “The Art Of Anxiety: Painter George Tooker Dies At 90”, mentions a painting of Tooker’s that I reproduced in my posting:

In 1946, near the start of his career, Tooker painted Children and Spastics. The work shows a group of boys menacing a trio of gay men. It’s “one of the cruelest paintings” Tooker made, says art historian Robert Cozzolino. The artist was commenting on “things that he had witnessed or what he had felt people were capable of.”

Tooker channels Michelangelo’s The Torment of Saint Anthony with a Renaissance technique that comes in part from using egg tempera paints — a painstaking technique favored by the early masters.

Here’s Michelangelo’s painting, with a note from Wikipedia:

The Torment of Saint Anthony is the earliest known painting by Michelangelo, painted after an engraving by Martin Schongauer when he was only 12 or 13 years old… It shows the common medieval subject, included in the Golden Legend and other sources, of Saint Anthony being assailed in the desert by demons, whose temptations he resisted; the Temptation of St Anthony (or “Trial”) is the more common name of the subject. But this composition shows a later episode where St Anthony, normally flown about the desert supported by angels, was ambushed in mid-air by devils. (link)

In Tooker’s painting, instead of devils, the tormentors are children, three gay men replace the figure of St. Anthony, and the event takes place on a city street rather than in mid-air.



One Response to “The Torment of Saint Anthony”

  1. Realism plus « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Edward Hopper, and Paul Cadmus; one on George Tooker, with mention of Cadmus and Reginald Marsh; another on Tooker, paired with Michelangelo; and one on Robert […]

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