Jack Tworkov (1900-1982)

Born in Biala, Poland in 1900, Jack Tworkov came to the United States when he was thirteen. He studied at Columbia University and the National Academy of Design, under Ivan Olinsky. He also studied at the Art Students League with Guy Pene DuBois and Boardman Robinson. During the Depression he worked first with the Public Works of Art Project and then with the WPA. While working with the WPA, Tworkov met Willem de Kooning, who was also working in the same program. Together, and with other abstract expressionists, they founded the New York School, which flourished in the 1940's to the early 1950's. Tworkov was also a founding member of The Club, one of the primary avant-garde art forums in New York in the early 1950's. He taught at American University, Black Mountain College, Queens College, Pratt Institute, University of Minnesota, the Fieldston School, and Yale, where he was the Chairman of Art at the School of Art and Architecture from 1963-1969. He won the Corcoran Gold Medal at the 28th Biennial Exhibit of American Painting in 1963.

Tworkov's early work ran the range of subjects, from figures to landscapes and still lifes. His acquaintance with the painter Karl Knaths exposed him to the work of painters such as Joan Miro, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. Cezanne was always an important influence for Tworkov. His early works are in keeping with the times, experiments in cubism, gradually moving into gestural abstraction of the subject. He showed an interest in the surrealists' automatic method, although not in the surrealist style itself. The automatic method tried to tap the unconscious mind and put it on a canvas without the interference of the conscious mind. Doodling was one manifestation, as was most of abstract expressionism. Gradually, through the 1950's the figure became subsumed by Tworkov's active, expressionistic brushstrokes which dominated the canvases with their diagonal energy. Starting in the 1960's, Tworkov began to introduce order into his paintings through the use of grids, geometries, and systems.

The two watercolors that Tworkov painted for the Bureau of Reclamation are quite different from the canvases that he was working on at the time, works such as Partitions. Perhaps the largest difference is the medium. Most of the canvases that he produced were done in oil, these two paintings are done in watercolor. Also, they explicitly refer to a specific landscape. While some abstraction is present, it is still easy to identify natural elements and features. At this point in time, Tworkov was fully into his geometric period. The two watercolors do not have grids, geometries or other systems present in their composition. In fact, hints of the earlier diagonal brushstrokes appear in these two paintings.

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