Painting: Contemporary Florentine

While the avant-garde captures the limelight by madly mixing media, a hardy band of painters are quite content to set down their vision of reality with meticulous draftsmanship. Such is George Tooker, 46, who works painstakingly in the 14th century Florentine medium of egg tempera on gesso panels. He is unabashedly proud of being called a traditionalist and a craftsman.

All this does not make his themes any the less contemporary. His subjects are haunted faces captured in the city's maze of subways, lunch counters, hospitals — and sometimes square, symbolic boxes that fade away into a phantasmagoric perspective under the...

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