A leading figure in the New York School of abstract expressionists and best known for his spontaneous brush strokes and rhythmic compositions, Jack Tworkov was born in Biala, Poland in 1900. After immigrating to the United States in 1913, he settled in New York, where he began taking drawing classes at Stuyvesant High School. He studied English at Columbia University (1920–23) and art at the National Academy of Design (1923–25) and Art Students League (1925–6). In 1921, Tworkov was greatly influenced by the work of Cézanne, whose work was exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum. Although New York remained his primary residence, Tworkov began spending his summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he befriended Karl Knaths. At this time he developed an interest in the ideas and work of European modernists Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Joan Miro. During the 1930s and 1940s, he worked on the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project (1935–41). In 1941, he had his first solo show at the A.C.A. Gallery, New York, and continued to exhibit frequently to critical acclaim.
During World War II Tworkov briefly stopped painting; however, when he resumed he began experimenting with abstraction, at the same time other artists —Jackson Pollock, Phillip Guston, and Bradley Walker Tomlin—were also developing their new ideas and creating purely abstract, expressionist works. By the 1950s, Tworkov had fully embraced the idea of using unconscious impulses in painting, an important aspect of abstract expressionism. He filled his canvases with gestural brushstrokes that combined to create forceful linear rhythms across his compositions. Within ten years, Tworkov felt that his abstract style had become predictable and repetitive, so he rejected the spontaneous gestures of abstract expressionism for a more linear geometric approach. This more disciplined structure typified his works of the 1960s and 1970s, where the use of a diagonal grid imposes a new sense of order on the surface of his compositions. While these later works show strong geometric relationships, his brushwork continued to function as a rhythmic element.
Throughout his career, Tworkov held various teaching positions, including chairman of the art department at the Yale School of Art and Architecture, from 1963–69. His works are included in many prestigious collections, both public and private. He has received many awards and honors, including a gold medal at the 1963 Corcoran Biennial.