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George Tooker
The Waiting Room
1959
egg tempera
24 x 30 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc.



In Tooker's waiting room, exhausted people are trapped in numbered cubicles that have no corollary in reality. Actors in an existential drama, they hide behind masks, magazines, and walls or slip into the unconsciousness of sleep. The only visible human face—that of the furtive figure at left—is partly concealed behind opaque glasses. Tooker 's meticulous use of the egg tempera medium and clear, icy palette give the scene an uncanny realism.