Dark Angel

George Tooker

Dark Angel


George Tooker (1920-2011)




Egg tempera on gesso panel


24 x 19 in. (60.96 x 48.26 cm.)

Accession #:


Credit Line:

Henry C. Gibson Fund


"Dark Angel," is a self-portrait with allegorical content. Tooker has depicted himself in the bottom right corner of the painting wearing a blue work shirt and holding a long thin-tipped paintbrush in his right hand. His eyes are half-open and seem unfocused as though he was in a trance or semi-sleep state. He could also be glancing down at a painting that is out of our sight but in his view. Despite his age - seventy-six at the time - Tooker has rendered his features as those of a man a few decades younger. His light brown hair, mustache and beard, and eyebrows contain no grey but rather glow with golden highlights as they catch the light. A second figure in the painting - the "angel" referred to in the title - takes up more space in the composition. The angel stands behind Tooker and holds its right hand in blessing or benediction and rests its left on the artist's head. Typical of Tooker's figures, it is unclear whether the figure is male or female. Throughout his career, Tooker depicted people of mixed and diverse ethnicities in single compositions or narratives. Here Tooker has chosen to depict the angel as a Black androgynous figure. The angel wears a yellow shirt beneath a thin blue robe. The angel's wings of warm brown feathers can be seen framing his body at left and right. The supernatural figure appears to be peering down towards the artwork Tooker has paused in making. Each figure emanates a warm glow from their heads; Tooker's face bears this radiance while the angel seems to force light outward so that it surrounds his head like a halo. A rich orange background sets off the entire composition,unifying the color complements with the array of distributed earth tones.