The Old Duchess

Artist: George Luks (American, Williamsport, Pennsylvania 1866–1933 New York)

Date: 1905

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 30 x 25 in. (76.2 x 63.5 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: George A. Hearn Fund, 1921

Accession Number: 21.41.1


Ashcan artist George Luks often focused his brush on urban types and individuals from impoverished and immigrant communities, such as the "Old Duchess." Featured in the "Eight" exhibition at New York’s Macbeth Galleries in 1908, the painting still had the power to shock eight years later when critic James Gibbons Huneker, a great friend and admirer of Luks, described the subject as "an elderly hag with a distinguished bearing, a depraved woman of rank, who wore five or six dresses at once, on her head a shapeless yet attractive gear, and in her pocket she carried a fat roll of bills for purposes of dissipation, or bribery, or for bailing out some Tenderloin wreck. She is maleficence incarnate."