Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

George Tooker, born New York City 1920-died Hartland, VT 2011  Search this
egg tempera on wood
24 x 30 in. (61.0 x 76.2 cm.)
Luce Center Label:
George Tooker grew frustrated with the bureaucracy while trying to obtain building permits for a house he bought in New York. He painted several images that show “faceless” government workers and run-down people getting nowhere (Garver, George Tooker, 1985). The clinical interior of The Waiting Room evokes the conformity of the 1950s and emphasizes the pale, drawn expressions on the figures. The people stand in numbered boxes, evoking ideas of standardization that force people into predefined categories. The man on the left appears to be in charge of the “sorting,” creating a sinister view of government scrutiny.
Luce Object Quote:
“The Waiting Room is a kind of purgatory---people just waiting---waiting to wait. It is not living. It is a matter of waiting---not being one’s self. Not enjoying life, not being happy, waiting, always waiting for something that might be better---which never comes. Why can’t they just enjoy the moment?” The artist, quoted in Garver, George Tooker, 1985
Figure group  Search this
Recreation\leisure\reading  Search this
State of being\other\sleep  Search this
State of being\other\waiting  Search this
Architecture Interior\civic\railroad station  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.
Object number:
See more items in:
Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Painting and Sculpture
On View:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 38B
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor
Data Source:
Smithsonian American Art Museum