Notes on Jack Tworkov

Abstract Expressionist Jack Tworkov was born  Jacob Tworkovsky in Biala Poland. His sister Janice would also become an artist, changing her last name to the name of her birthplace, becoming Janice Biala. Fortunately he and his sister immigrated to the U.S. in 1913. The Jewish population of Biala would later be sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp during Hitler's advance into Europe. (IJ)

During the late 1920s Tworkov studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students' League. During the 1930s he worked as a puppeteer under Remo Bufano. (RB) He met Willem de Kooning in 1935 after enrolling in the WPA Federal Art Project the same year. (DK177) Tworkov remained with the Project until 1941. Like many of the other Abstract Expressionists Tworkov hung out at the Waldorf Cafeteria on Carmine Street during the pre-Cedar Street Tavern days of the mid-late 1940s.

Philip Pavia [sculptor]:

"It's hard to describe the evenings. But there was a real hunger. We all sought each other's company and it was practically daily; six out of seven nights of the week we all sat around and talked.... Droves of artists started coming into the cafeteria. Jack Tworkov, Milton Resnick - I can't name them all. Pretty soon we couldn't fit around the table. So we had about four tables. Sidney Janis would come in, and [Frederick] Kiesler. And John Graham would come in with complete contempt for all of us. He hated the cigarette smoke and he would hold his nose while he talked to us. Now this was the beginning of everything." (DK217)

Tworkov had his first solo show at the A.C.A. Gallery in New York in 1940 and then temporarily stopped painting from 1942 to 1945 while working for the war industry as a tool designer. From 1948 to 1953 he and de Kooning had adjoining studios in Manhattan. (JT) Much of Tworkov's work from this period was abstract figuration - similar to de Kooning - but by the late 1950s he embraced pure abstraction with a geometrical structure. Tworkov later said that he turned to geometry in order to "to impose calm on myself." (HC)

Jack Tworkov [1977]:

''By the end of the 50s I felt that the automatic aspects of Abstract Expressionist painting of the gestural variety, to which my painting was related, had reached a stage where its forms had become predictable and automatically repetitive. Besides, the exuberance that was a condition of the birth of this painting could not be maintained without pretense forever.'' (JT)

From 1963 to 1969 Tworkov was chairman of the art department at the Yale School of Art and Architecture. In 1981, a year before his death he was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He died on September 4, 1982 in Provincetown, Massachusetts. (JT)

G. Comenas

back to August 15, 1900: Jack Tworkov is born in Biala, Poland