Mr. George’s career in art spanned more than 70 years. He began painting professionally prior to serving in the Navy in World War II and continued painting almost daily until his final illness.
Intensely curious about the world, Mr. George travelled extensively. More than just visiting foreign countries, he settled down to live and work in France, Italy, North Africa, Japan, China, Wales, and especially Norway.
The Lofoten mountains in Norway held such fascination for him that he bought a house in Drobak, a small village on a fjord outside Oslo. During the 30 summers that he spent there, he drew and painted the Lofoten mountains in an infinite number of ways and in many different media. The images he created there remained in his subconscious and reemerged over the years in future work.
In the early 1970s, when the People’s Republic of China normalized diplomatic relations with the United States, Mr. George was one of the first artists invited to China. There he focused mainly on bold brush and ink drawings of the mountains of Kweilin. Gordon Washburn, writing in the catalogue of an exhibition of Mr. George’s work at the Smithsonian, observed: “Each drawing offers a rich abstract pattern, amounting to a kind of distillation of a Kweilin mountain scene. The more reduced they are in number of strokes, the more concentrated is the effect.”
By the time of his two extended trips to China, Mr. George was well into the work for which he became best known: abstract paintings and drawings inspired by nature. When an interviewer asked him about the roles that direct observation and memory played in his work, Mr. George answered: “Even though much of my work is basically abstract, I rely on nature for knowledge and inspiration. Looking at nature is where it all starts for me.”
To deepen his sense of color, Mr. George worked extensively in various British gardens, especially Bodnant Garden in Wales. The art he produced there, primarily pastels, led him to become a master colorist.
Reviewing a London show of Mr. George’s Bodnant Garden work, Dr. Gertrude Prescott Nutting wrote: “One of the remarkable aspects of Tom’s oeuvre is his continuing willingness to explore and experiment, both artistically and in terms of choice of environment, and to push continually beyond what he has done before. We encounter all the vibrancy of an artist still reaching youthfully for the next aesthetic discovery combined with all the depth of interpretation derived from 50 years devoted to that quest.”
Mr. George brought home to Princeton the skills he had developed abroad and drew and painted at the pond at the Institute for Advanced Study in all seasons and at all times of day. Many of these works are to be found in Princeton homes as well as in museums.
For 22 years, Mr. George was represented by the Betty Parsons Gallery at 15 East 57th Street in New York. Today, the woman and artist Betty Parsons and her gallery are the stuff of legend from the heyday of Abstract Expressionism from the late 1940s to the 1980s.
Mr. George’s works are in the collections of the world’s leading cultural institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the National Museum of American Art, the Tate Gallery, the Princeton University Art Museum, and many other institutions throughout the world.
Mr. George was a visiting artist or artist-in-residence at Dartmouth College, the University of Texas, the Art League of San Juan, and the Edward MacDowell Colony. He received awards or grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Fulbright Scholar Program, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Salon International des Galeries Pilote in Lausanne, Switzerland, among several others.
Mr. George was born in New York City on July 1, 1918. His father was the world famous cartoonist Rube Goldberg. With a son entering the art field, Mr. Goldberg changed both his sons’ surnames to George so that they did not have to live in his shadow.
Mr. George attended Lincoln School, Deerfield Academy, and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1940. After a year at the Art Students’ League, he served in the Navy in World War II directing a group of artists who produced dioramas of the major assault landing beaches in Europe, Africa and the Far East.