The Waiting Room

  • George Tooker, The Waiting Room, 1959, egg tempera on wood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 1969.47.43

George Tooker grew frustrated with the bureaucracy while trying to obtain building permits for a house he bought in New York. He painted several images that show faceless” government workers and run-down people getting nowhere (Garver, George Tooker, 1985). The clinical interior of The Waiting Room evokes the conformity of the 1950s and emphasizes the pale, drawn expressions on the figures. The people stand in numbered boxes, evoking ideas of standardization that force people into predefined categories. The man on the left appears to be in charge of the sorting,” creating a sinister view of government scrutiny.

The Waiting Room is a kind of purgatory — people just waiting — waiting to wait. It is not living. It is a matter of waiting — not being one’s self. Not enjoying life, not being happy, waiting, always waiting for something that might be better — which never comes. Why can’t they just enjoy the moment?” The artist, quoted in Garver, George Tooker, 1985

The Waiting Room
2430 in. (61.076.2 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.

Mediums Description
egg tempera on wood
  • Recreation – leisure – reading
  • State of being – other – waiting
  • Figure group
  • State of being – other – sleep
  • Architecture Interior – civic – railroad station
Object Number
Linked Open Data
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