University of Texas at Austin

George Benjamin Luks:

An Inventory of the Elizabeth Olds Collection of George Benjamin Luks in the Art Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Collector: Olds, Elizabeth, 1896-1991
Title: Elizabeth Olds Collection of George Benjamin Luks
Dates: 1963-1966, undated (bulk undated)
Extent: 2 boxes, 2 oversize folders (239 items)
Abstract: The collection consists almost entirely of undated rough sketches (pencil or conté crayon) on small pieces of paper by George Benjamin Luks.
Access: Please note: A minimum of twenty-four hours is required to pull art materials to the Reading and Viewing Room. All researchers must have an appointment to view oversized and/or fragile works of art. Some materials may be restricted from viewing.

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Gift, 1983
Provenance: The collection was the gift of University of Texas at Austin physics professor Dr. Emmett L. Hudspeth and his wife Mary Hudspeth. Mary Hudspeth was the niece of Elizabeth Olds.
Processed by: Helen Young, 2012

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center

Biographical Sketch

George Benjamin Luks, American urban realist painter and draftsman, is chiefly remembered as a member of the group of artists known as The Eight and for his association with the Ashcan School. He was born August 13, 1866 or 1867, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to German emigrant parents, physician Emil Carl Luks and Bertha von Kraemer Luks.
Luks’ parents encouraged his early artistic talent; after high school in Shenandoah he was sent to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. In 1885, he left for Europe where he enrolled at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. During the next several years Luks traveled throughout Western Europe, visiting the museums and studying the old masters; extended time was spent in Paris and London before returning to the United States in early 1894. He took a job with the Philadelphia Press as an artist-reporter, producing finished drawings from his quick sketches at the scenes of murders, trials, fires, train wrecks, and other sensational events. His roommate at this time was another Philadelphia Press artist, Everett Shinn. Through Shinn, Luks became acquainted with artists John Sloan, Robert Henri, and William Glackens.
In June 1895, Luks was sent by the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin to Cuba to report on the Spanish-American War. After being fired the following March for not filing his reports on time, Luks moved to New York and immediately found work with Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. Later that year he got the job of drawing the Hogan’s Alley comic strip with its Yellow Kid character for the New York World after its creator Richard Outcault was hired away by William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.
In 1897, Luks got William Glackens a job drawing cartoons for the New York World, and the two began sharing an apartment. Glackens, who had just returned from a two-year voyage to France where he decided to become a painter, persuaded Luks to paint oil sketches of city life.
Luks soon became a prolific painter, but his depictions of urban scenes and society’s outcasts in a style that some of his contemporaries considered to be slapdash were often rejected by exhibition juries. After the National Academy of Design refused to exhibit paintings by Luks, Shinn, and Glackens in its 1907 spring show, one of the jurors, Robert Henri, resigned from his position and met with Sloan and Glackens to discuss putting on their own group show. In February 1908, the Macbeth Galleries in New York put on an exhibition of paintings by eight artists; the five from Philadelphia–Glackens, Henri, Luks, Shinn, and Sloan–were joined by Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson, and Maurice Prendergast. The exhibition received substantial newspaper coverage; the Sun referred to the group as The Eight and other critics and reporters quickly followed. The show was an important challenge of traditional art in America.
Luks also exhibited in the famous 1913 Armory Show, but the cubist works in the show had no influence on Luks’ own artistic style; he continued painting the way he chose to paint years before.
In 1920, Luks began teaching at the Art Students League in New York. It was at this time that Elizabeth Olds won a scholarship to study at the League. Olds’ abilities and temperament, as well as her interest in people and portraiture, impressed Luks. She became his favorite student and often accompanied him on trips to the Bronx and the lower East Side to sketch the people. Olds remained in New York for about two years after her scholarship expired to work as Luks’ assistant. When in 1925 Luks left the Art Students League, Olds found him an atelier on East 22nd Street and helped him set up the studio for his own art school.
Luks was married three times, though he had no children. He died October 29, 1933, in the doorway of a New York bar.


Arthur, Susan E. "Elizabeth Olds: Graphic Artist of the 1930s." MA thesis. University of Texas at Austin, 1985.
De Kay, Ormonde. "Luks." American Heritage Magazine 39.1 (1988). Accessed March 30, 2012.
"George G. Luks Dies Suddenly in Street."  New York Times, October 30, 1933: 17. Proquest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007) (100846672). Accessed March 30, 2012.
Marstine, Janet. "Eight, the (ii)."  Grove Art Online. Accessed March 30, 2012.
---. "Luks, George."  Grove Art Online. Accessed March 30, 2012.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists almost entirely of undated rough sketches (pencil or conté crayon) on small pieces of paper by George Benjamin Luks. Many of these sketches appear to be preliminary studies for paintings as they have Luks’ handwritten notes indicating the subject colors. The collection is organized into two series: I. Original Works, undated; and II. Reproductions, 1963-1966, undated.
Series I. consists of 152 drawings on 143 sheets of paper and is divided into four subseries: A. People, B. Mammals, C. Birds, and D. Landscapes. The sketches of people are quick renderings of men and women in cafés and parks, children playing, portrait studies, and women wearing large hats. The sketches of mammals include cows, horses, cats, and dogs, as well as a few exotic sheep and antelopes likely seen in a zoo. The sketches of birds, 94 in all, comprise the largest group in the collection. Most of these are studies of parrots. The five landscapes include a watercolor painting of a Gothic cathedral.
Series II. consist of five photographic copies of two-page spreads from a sketchbook, and 37 color 35mm slides in a box addressed to Elizabeth Olds. Most of the slides are of drawings in the collection.

Related Material

Also in the Ransom Center’s Art Collection are two collections of art work by Luks’ assistant Elizabeth Olds: the Emmett L. Hudspeth Collection of Elizabeth Olds, and the Benjamin O. Rees Collection of Elizabeth Olds. Additionally, there are two watercolor illustrations by fellow "Eight" artist Everett Shinn for Charles Dickens' The Mystery of Edwin Drood, dated 1941, in the Art Collection’s Charles Dickens Collection.

Index Terms


Luks, George Benjamin, 1867-1933.

Item List