Jack Tworkov

Among the most influential artists of the 20th century, Jack Tworkov had already established himself as a visual artist of note when New York became the heart of the art world following World War II. A founding member of the famed New York school and its Eighth Street Club, he brought a maturity of hand and intellect to its ranks. Painting alongside Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and later, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns among others, Tworkov was recognized by his peers as one of the most successful artists in terms of spontaneity and strength of gesture. He believed that true creativity required an absence of self consciousness or predetermined will, what he described as allowing the painting to take over the process. His completed body of work spans a full six decades and conveys this commitment to artistic exploration.

Focusing on still life painting and the figure in his earlier work, he brought a practiced sense of composition and structure to the abstract works that followed. He had an intense reverence for the art of Paul Cezanne and was deeply influenced by Cezanne’s expressive use of paint and colour. For Tworkov, these elements surpassed content or subject matter to become the focus of the work and were key in his transition from representational art to abstraction.

Born in Biala, Poland in 1900, Tworkov immigrated to the United States at the age of thirteen. He was an accomplished student and completed three years of study in English Literature at Columbia University before choosing to shift his focus to the study of art and art making. He went on to study at the National Academy of Design and the Art Student’s League of New York. In addition to establishing a successful studio practice Tworkov taught at numerous institutions throughout his career including a visiting artist position at Black Mountain College and a teaching position at Yale University where he was named Art Department Chair in 1963. 

Tworkov had his first solo show in 1939 at the ACA Gallery in New York. This launched an extensive list of solo and group exhibitions in the United Stated and Europe. He had his first major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1964 and a second solo show at the Whitney in 1971. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art also did a Tworkov retrospective in 1982. His work has been included in many group exhibitions among them the traveling exhibition, “The New American Painting as Shown in Eight European Countries” (1958) and the very recent “The Big Picture: Abstract Expressionist New York” which showed at the Museum of Modern Art from October 2010 to April 2011. Jack Tworkov’s work is included in an exhaustive list of permanent collections including the Whitney, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

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All images © the Estate of Jack Tworkov, New York