Note: Italicized comments are by Jack Tworkov. Unless otherwise noted all references originate from Mira Schor, ed. Extreme of the Middle: The Writings of Jack Tworkov (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009). This chronology includes major one-man exhibitions, important group exhibitions in which Tworkov participated, as well as historic events and significant exhibitions that may not have included Tworkov’s work.
JACK TWORKOV (b. August 15, 1900, Biala, Poland; d. September 4, 1982, Provincetown, MA)
SEPT 26. Thirteen-year-old Yakov immigrates to America with his younger sister, Janice, and their mother. Reuniting with their father, who had opened a tailor shop on Ludlow Street, and taking on the name of their sponsor Bernstein, the family resides on Eldridge Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
I was born Yakov Tworkovsky. But some brother of my father’s went to America around 1890, and took the name Bernstein […] Subsequently all the remaining brothers who emigrated […] all became Bernsteins after crossing the Czar’s borders in order to prove that they were blood related to ‘person to who destined.’ Thus I left Poland Yakov Tworkovsky and arrived Jacob Bernstein. (EXTREME p.4)
Brother and sister struggle to assimilate to American culture at the turn of the century.
The first years in New York I remember as the most painful in my life. Everything I loved in my childhood I missed in New York, everything that had been painful in my childhood grew to distressing proportions […] as I had to face a new culture and adolescence at the same time. (EXTREME p.9)
Enrolls in grammar school, and skips several grades, then attends Stuyvesant High School. There, at the urging of his mechanical drawing teacher, he attends a sketch class after school. He aspired to become a poet.
Leaves home and finds refuge in Greenwich Village. Enters Columbia College to major in English with aspirations of becoming a poet. Joins his sister Janice and her friends at their informal sketching sessions; begins an association with Lee Gatch.
In my early twenties, I became an avid reader of contemporary poetry and prose: Pound, Eliot, Frost, Cummings, Moore, Dos Passos, Joyce and Proust. (EXTREME p.9)
Returns briefly to Art Students League; Joins New England Society of Contemporary Art.
At one time or another I worked as a cutter in a hat factory, at Nedicks, in a wire factory, as a packer at Stern’s, packer in a dress shop, books salesman at Lord & Taylors, skate salesman at Macy’s. I mention these jobs as sometimes-inevitable events in an artists’ career. I avoided jobs in the summertime and from 1924 went almost every summer to Provincetown. (November 1933 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Fellowship Application)
JUN 28. Becomes a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Participates in group exhibitions at Dudensing Gallery, New York. Work features representational painting inspired by landscapes and interiors that push compositional abstraction.
Although I admired the modern painting of Europe, I never came under the influence of any one artist or school […] Recently I felt that most painting modern or conservative was terribly remote from conditions that were really, really affecting people’s lives. This feeling, I’m sorry to say, has not matured in any finished work, but I strongly hope it will in the next few years (1933 Guggenheim Application)
JUL. Brief trip to France. The first since emigration to America. Travels by train to South of France to visit his younger sister, Janice Biala, who at the time was the companion of the English novelist, Ford Maddox Ford.
NOV. Biala, returns to New York from France; an event precipitated by the death of Ford Maddox Ford, and the heightening of the Nazi regime in France. Upon her arrival, Tworkov reacquaints Biala with his community of friends. Among them is Willem de Kooning.
DEC 31. Tworkov’s first one-man exhibition in New York opens at ACA Gallery. Critic Howard Devree remarks, “No one is likely to doubt the earnestness of Jack Tworkov…[he] is willfully crude at times and distorts to heighten his effects…Grimness is to be felt in all his work…” (Howard Devree. “A Reviewer’s Note Book,” The New York Times, January 7, 1940)
“Although many distinguished contemporary artists (among them Milton Avery, Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Theodore Roszak) were ‘alumni’ of the WPA project, Tworkov, unlike some of the others, felt no freedom of creation under what he terms a “forced draft.” He believes that the project, with its ideology and collective thinking, acted as a negative charge that helped galvanize abstract expressionism into existence. “It was the worst period of my life,” he says, as quoted in Newsweek (August 5, 1963), “an extremely bleak, dreary, and stupid period. If I had to live my life over again on the project I wouldn’t do it.”(Current Biography. (Artist: Jack Tworkov) March 1964, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 37-39.)
SEPT 16. Participates in Two Hundred American Watercolors at Whitney Museum of American Art.
OCT 23. Participates in New Directions in American Painting at The Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh.
DEC 7. Japan launches a surprise attack on American naval forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The United States declares war on Japan and enters World War II (DEC 8).
OCT 20. Peggy Guggenheim opens her Art of the Century with interior designed by Frederick Kiesler. The gallery becomes a focal point for émigrés. Peggy’s assistant from 1942-44, Howard Putzel, sought out young American artists who were working in biomorphic abstract style and this led to the first one man shows for Pollock, Baziotes, Hofmann, Motherwell, Rothko, Still and Pousette-Dart.
NOV 9. Jackson Pollock’s first one-man exhibition opens at Art of this Century, New York.
AUG 6 + 9. The United States conducts two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
AUG 14. Victory over Japan Day. Tworkov takes his two daughters to Times Square as America celebrates victory. World War II would end on September 2.Tworkov resumes painting but only intermittently. Becomes interested in objects as a theme and experiments with abstraction based on the figure. He works out of the family’s crowded apartment on West 23rd Street, but later rents a studio on East 19th Street, which he shares with another painter named Donald Cole. Continues pursuit of compositional abstraction.
OCT 25. Tworkov’s first one-man exhibition at Charles Egan Gallery opens. Art News reports “Tworkov’s fine line, the elegant signature of each brush stroke, the isolated forms held on the surface with halos of color. Tworkov’s color […] has a kind of magic; rich and silvery.” (“Jack Tworkov at Egan Gallery,” Art News vol. 46, November 1947, p. 42.) Tworkov continues to exhibit at Charles Egan Gallery through 1954.
Becomes a part-time drawing instructor at the School of General Studies, Queens College, NY, a position he would hold until 1955.
JAN 25. Participates in The One Hundred and Forty-third Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.
APR 11. Participates in The Sixth Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Paintings at The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.
APR 12. Willem de Kooning’s first one-man exhibition opens at Charles Egan Gallery.
JUL. Tworkov joins the faculty at The American University, Washington, DC, returning each summer until 1951. His one-man exhibition opens at The Watkins Gallery, The American University.
AUG. Tworkov’s Process in Art, the artist’s first critical writing, is published in Right Angle. “An artist tries to maintain within himself,” Tworkov writes, “a center that is inviolate. He marks out an area from which he tries to keep out the world. It is a listening post for interior communication; his redoubt against the outside. There he brings together all the strength and original force he can to the solution of his problem.” (Jack Tworkov. “Process in Art,” Right Angle, August 1948, vol. 2 no. 5. )
SEPT. Participates in an exhibition at Pan American Union, organized by American University with the intent to circulate throughout countries of Latin America. The exhibition opens in Puerto Rico in November.
OCT. Takes a studio on the second-floor, across the hall from Willem de Kooning’s studio, in an old storefront at 85 Fourth Avenue. When one arrived at the top of the stairs, Tworkov’s studio was on the left and de Kooning’s studio was on the right. The two artists’ close association, discussion and exchange of ideas, factor into both artists’ development well into the early 1950s. Anyone visiting Tworkov passed by de Kooning’s open door. Tworkov would maintain this studio until 1955.
OCT 22. Tworkov’s first one-man museum exhibition opens at Baltimore Museum of Art.
“I toy with the idea that maybe the only way to break down the walls of familiar experience is through a re-experience of the familiar.” (Jack Tworkov. “Paintings by Jack Tworkov,” Baltimore Museum of Art, October 22-November 30, 1948, exhibition brochure.)
Becomes a founding member of the Eighth Street Club, which becomes the meeting place for the artists of the New York School. Tworkov remains active in the Club through 1954. He participates on panels and records the events and discussions in his journals.
JAN 23. Participates in The One Hundred and Forty-fourth Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculptureat the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.
MAR 27. Participates in The Twenty-first Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Oil Paintingat the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
OCT 17. Second one-man exhibition at the Egan Gallery opens. “Jack Tworkov emerges from his third New York show as one of the most masterful artists of his generation now at work in America,” reports Thomas Hess, “ the spontaneous calligraphy that loops over his waving textures has a sureness…that comes only from complete mastery… [expressed in] statements at once reticent and eloquent…” (Thomas B. Hess. “Reviews and Previews: Jack Tworkov at Egan,” Art News, vol. 48, November 1949, p. 44.)
Tworkov begins to develop a mature style; spontaneous flame-like brushstrokes defined by grid.
JAN 23. Barnett Newman’s first one-man exhibition opens at Betty Parsons Gallery.
APR 21-23. Historic Artists’ Session held at Studio 35 at 35 East Eighth Street in Greenwich Village. Artists meet to discuss the current status of art in New York. In attendance are Janice Biala, Louise Bourgeois, Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, among others. Gottlieb suggests that the artist protest the juries selected for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s national contemporary art competition.
MAY. Participates in a group exhibition at Egan Gallery which includes “expressionistic nonfigurative” works by de Kooning, “geometrical variations” by Cavallon and Albers, and “figure studies,” by Tworkov and de Niro. (Stuart Preston. “Diversity Modern: An Italian Contemporary And Americans,” The New York Times, May 21, 1950.)
MAY 22. The open letter, signed by a few of the participants at the Artists’ Session, and protesting the Metropolitan Museum of Art for its anti-abstract bias in the selection of painters for the exhibit American Painting Today 1950 is published in The New York Times. “”18 Painters Boycott Metropolitan; Charge ‘Hostility to Advanced Art.'” This group would later become known as the Irascibles.
JUN 12-JUL 29. Tworkov returns on faculty for the third summer at The American University, Washington, DC.
OCT 16. Franz Kline’s first one-man exhibition in New York opens at Charles Egan Gallery.
NOV. Art News publishes Tworkov’s essay The Wandering Soutine (Jack Tworkov. “The Wandering Soutine.” Art News, November 1950, vol. 47, no. 7, pp 31-33, 62). The essay has a major effect on the re-evaluation of Chaim Soutine’s work as interpreted by a contemporary painter. The essay connects abstract expressionism to modern European painting and advances the appreciation of figurative abstraction of Soutine’s work among his contemporaries, especially de Kooning (see Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. de Kooning: An American Master. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004, p. 312).
NOV 25. Participates in the Fourth Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA.
DEC 8. Metropolitan Museum of Art opens the controversial exhibition American Painting Today 1950.
Participates in a symposium at the University of North Carolina with Philip Guston, Franz Kline, George McNeil, the art dealer Charles Egan.
JAN 15. Life Magazine publishes Nina Leen’s photograph of The Irascibles. Headline: “Irascible Group of Advanced Artists Led Fight Against Show.”
MAR 17. The 1951 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Sculpture, Watercolors and Drawings opens at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Tworkov exhibits a painting titled Figure.
MAY 14. Robert Rauschenberg’s first one-man exhibition in New York opens at Betty Parsons Gallery.
MAY 21. Tworkov participates in 9th Street: Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture. His painting The Sirens hangs between a sculpture by David Hare and a box by Joseph Cornell. Jack Pollock’s Number 1, 1949, installed vertically to accommodate the space, hung next to Tworkov’s painting. Tworkov plays a vital role in organizing the exhibition that includes sixty-one artists many of which later become leaders in Post War American Art including de Kooning, Franz Kline, Lee Krasner, and Robert Motherwell.
DEC 26. American Vanguard Art for Paris Exhibition opens in which Tworkov is one of twenty painters featured. Organized by the Sidney Janis Gallery for Galerie de France, with a purpose to “present to the Parisian art-going public a selection of the work of the most advanced painters in the United States,” (Press Release. Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, December 1951). the exhibition previews at Janis Gallery then travels to Galerie de France. The exhibit includes de Kooning, Gottlieb, Guston, Hofmann, Kline, Motherwell, Pollock, Reinhardt, and Tobey.
The Museum of Non-Objective Painting changes its name to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Tworkov’s first museum purchase: Green Landscape (1949) is acquired by The Baltimore Museum of Art.
JAN 18. Tworkov participates in panel at the Club entitled Expressionism I. Other panelists include William Baziotes, Philip Guston, Thomas B. Hess, Franz Kline, and Ad Reinhardt with Harold Rosenberg as moderator.
FEB 22. Tworkov participates in panel titled Conversation with Lionel Abel. Other panelists include Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and James McNeil with Mercedes Matter as moderator.
MAR 3. Tworkov’s third one-man exhibition at Charles Egan Gallery opens. An after party following the opening is held at the Club.
MAR 15. Participates in Twenty-third Exhibition of Contemporary American Oil Paintingsat Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
MAY 6. Participates in the Society for Contemporary American Art Exhibition, The Art Institute of Chicago, IL.
JUL. Visiting faculty, Black Mountain College, Asheville. Begins a series of paintings titled “House of the Sun” inspired by the theme of the Odyssey. Students include Fielding Dawson, Joe Fiore, Dan Rice, and Dorothea Rockburne. Renews his friendship with Robert Rauschenberg.
AUG. John Cage’s Theater Piece No. 1is performed at Black Mountain College. It would later be recognized as the first “Happening.”
OCT 16. Participates in the 1952 Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Paintings, The Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh.
NOV 6. Participates in the 1952 Annual Exhibition: Paintings, Sculpture, Watercolors, Drawings, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
DEC. Harold Rosenberg’s essay, The American Action Painters, by is published in Art News. It is Rosenberg’s first influential essay as an art critic.
OCT-NOV. Visiting Artist, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS.
Teaches once more at Indiana University in the summer of 1955. Teaches life drawing at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY.
FALL. Teaches at University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
NOV 26. Presents a lecture titled “Art Against Art” at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN.
DEC 1. One-man exhibition opens at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN.
MAY. Participates in The New American Painting at the International Program of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; this show travels to eight different countries including Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Germany, France and United Kingdom.
July. Participates in Documenta II, Kassel, Germany.
FALL. Purchases a house on the West End of Provincetown (30 Commerical Street). Tworkov and his family would continue to summer there until his death in 1982.
JUL. Artist-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Lectures to students and faculty on July 13. Participates in a cross-disciplinary panel with Alvin Etler, composer; John Ciardi, poet.
MAR. Visiting artist at University of Illinois, Urbana.
SPRING. Visiting artist at the School of Art and Architecture, Yale University, New Haven, CT.
JAN. Recipient of first William A. Clark Prize accompanied by Corcoran Gold Medal, 28thBiennial Exhibition of American Painting, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Of the award, critic John Canaday writes: “As far as this critic is concerned, the jury must have been awarding Mr. Tworkov a service medal on the basis of good behavior points accumulated over the years, for his art is certainly as dry, obvious, and derivative as the [New York] school affords.” (Canaday, John. “Big Art Exhibitions Enshrine Tested Tastes: Two Shows Honor the Established and Traditional,” The New York Times-Western Edition, Monday, January 21, 1963).
SPRING. Named William C. Leffingwell Professor of Painting, Yale University School of Art and Architecture, New Haven, CT.
JUL. Appointed Chairman of the Art Department of the Yale School of Art and Architecture. A post he would hold until 1969.
“The respectability that the New York School of abstract expressionist painting has achieved was evidenced by the appointment, on July 1, 1963, of Jack Tworkov, one of its leaders, as chairman of the art department of the Yale School of Art and Architecture, which was founded in 1866 and is the oldest art school on any American campus.” (Current Biography. March 1964, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 37-39)
Receives MFA In Privatum, Yale University, New Haven, CT.
A dramatic change in Tworkov’s paintings appears. Geometric emphasis emerges; gestures become increasingly controlled. Dark grays and subdued pastels are used.
“He (Tworkov) moved away from the spontaneous automatic gestures of Abstract Expressionism and instead began to work with a more disciplined, systematic approach based on carefully thought-out geometric relationships. This ‘diagonal grid’ as he called it, became the basic element of his work.”
(Kroeter, Steven W. “An Interview with Jack Tworkov,” Art in America (November 1982), pp. 82-87.
Named William Leffingwell Professor of Painting; Emeritus, Yale University School of Art and Architecture.
Geometric structure of works based on diagonals and abutting angles; strong color reintroduced.
Receives John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship Award (Fine Art-Painting), New York, NY.
MAY. Mentor and colleague, Karl Knaths, dies in Hyannis, MA; obituary is printed in ARTnews.
Receives Doctor of Fine Arts, Maryland Institute of Art, Baltimore.
FALL. Spends six weeks in Europe, visiting Pompei. Tworkov is especially interested in the use of geometry in the Roman and Greek art of the period. Visits Arrezzo to see the work of Piero. Visits Assissi to see the work of Giotto. Returns to New York on Jan 5, 1972.
JUNE 6. Receives Doctor of Humane Letters, Columbia University, New York, NY. Others honored include film maker Alfred Hitchcock.
SUMMER. Artist-in-Residence, American Academy, Rome.
SUMMER. Visiting Artist, Columbia University, New York.
WINTER. Artist in residence, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH.
MAR 16. First exhibition at Nancy Hoffman Gallery opens in New York. Tworkov would continue exhibiting at the gallery through the 1970s.
MAR 18-28. Artist in Residence, Northeastern Missouri State University, Kirksville, MI.
Visiting Critic, Royal College of Art, London
MAY. Receives Painter of the Year Award, Skowhegan School of Art, ME. Others honored include His Holiness Pope Paul VI and Michael Heizer.
Appointed Andrew Carnegie Visiting Professor of Art, Cooper Union School of Art, New York.
Visiting Professor, New York Studio School.
Awarded Distinguished Teaching Art Award, College Art Association of America, New York.MAY. Exhibits in The Golden Door: Artist-Immigrants of America, 1876-1976,Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.
NOV 29-DEC 9. Artist in Residence, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
WINTER. Visiting artist, University of California, Santa Barbara.
NOV 28. Lectures at Montclair Art Museum, NJ, as part of The Artist Speaks Series.
SPRING. Visiting Artist, California State University, Long Beach, CA. A concurrent exhibition is held at Jan Baum-Iris Silverman Gallery.
Awarded Honorary Degree, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI.
MAY. One-man exhibition Jack Tworkov: Paintings 1950-1978 opens at Third Eye Centre, Glasgow, show travels throughout Scotland and England.
NOV 12-14. Visiting Artist. Spokane Falls Community College, Spokane, WA.
MAY 20. Elected member American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York.
APR. Jack Tworkov: Fifteen Years of Painting opens at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY.
SEPT 4. Tworkov dies at his home in Provincetown, MA. Obituary written by Michael Brenson appears in The New York Times.
NOV. Jack Tworkov a Memorial Exhibition opens at the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York, NY.