Lot 92
  • 92

George Benjamin Luks

500,000 - 700,000 USD
1,155,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • George Benjamin Luks
  • The Swan Boats
  • signed George Luks (lower right)
  • oil on canvas


Chapellier Galleries, New York
Mrs. Catherine Auchincloss, New York
By bequest to the present owner from the above


New York, Owen Gallery, George Luks: An Artistic Legacy, October-December 1997, pp. 25-27, 35, illustrated fig. 3, p. 5

Catalogue Note

George Luks was a leading member of the group of artists known as The Eight and part of a movement more broadly referred to as the Aschan School. The group rejected the subjects of the Impressionists and chose to instead focus on depicting scenes from modern life in New York, fascinated by urban street life in particular. While these artists, including Luks, are perhaps most celebrated for their often gritty portrayals of the working class, they also captured the daily lives of the elite. As Graham W.J. Beal, Director of the Detroit Museum of Art, writes, “The Aschan artists truly were painters of American urban life and took for their subject matter scenes from everyday life, which inevitably showed a wider range of social strata than is indicated ivy the circle’s nickname” (as quoted in James Tottis, Life’s Pleasures: The Aschan Artist’s Brush with Leisure, 1895-1925, London, 2007, p. 7). 

In The Swan Boats, Luks depicts a group of these titular pontoon pleasure boats in the pond of Boston’s Public Garden. This fleet of swan boats has been in operation since 1877 and was already regarded as a cultural icon for the city by the time the artist moved there in the early 1920s. While Luks, like the other Aschan painters, had previously eschewed European subject matter and technique, he was exposed to and influenced by the work of Matisse and other French Fauvist painters while living and working in the home of Boston socialite Maragrett Sargent. Not only did he draw inspiration from their bright, vivid colors and geometric forms, but he also began to embrace the popular European subject of bourgeois public leisure and the technique of painting en plein air. The Swan Boats is indicative of this European influence, with Luks’ application of small, Impressionist-like brushstrokes of pure color to depict the scene. Utilizing staccato brushwork and heightened color, he captures the effects of light, atmosphere and movement of the water to create a sophisticated city scene.