Painter and printmaker. After making his reputation with abstract expressionist canvases featuring boldly slashing brushstrokes, in the 1970s he imposed a discipline of geometric shapes on clouds of tiny, flickering marks. Born in Biala, now in Poland near the Russian border, Jacob Tworkovsky moved with his family to New York in 1913 and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1928. Intending to become a writer, he studied literature from 1920 until 1923 at Columbia University, but also took art courses. During this period the work of Cézanne became a long-standing interest. In 1923 he enrolled at the National Academy of Design, where Charles Hawthorne ranked as his most important teacher. Around this time he also began regularly summering in Provincetown. In 1925–26 he studied at the Art Students League with Guy Pène du Bois and Boardman Robinson, among other instructors. Karl Knaths and Lee Gatch also proved important to his development. During the 1930s, the social realist approach of the American Scene movement claimed his attention. From 1934 until 1941 he worked for a federal art project. Subsequently, he ceased painting while employed as a tool designer for the World War II effort. By 1945 he had returned to his art, soon moving away from representation toward an abstract approach suggesting the influence of his friend Willem de Kooning. While teaching during the summer of 1952 at Black Mountain College, he formulated the signature style that characterized his work through the 1960s. In the large and forthright Crest (Cleveland Museum of Art, 1958), extended, gestural brushstrokes in darkly sonorous colors seem to resist a grid in their placement along roughly vertical or horizontal coordinates. From the late 1940s Tworkov pursued an active teaching career, culminating in his appointment as head of the School of Art and Architecture at Yale University from 1963 until 1969. Around the time he retired, he more pointedly emphasized structure over spontaneity. Yearning for a more transcendent form of expression, he soon achieved lyrical effects with precisely organized compositions, most often based on triangles. Although color effects also became subdued, often nearly monochrome, he animated the surface of his work with quivering strokes of sensitively calibrated hues. He died in Provincetown.
Tworkov's sister, Janice Brustlein (1903–2000), painted professionally as Biala. In the tradition of Matisse or Milton Avery, her landscapes, interiors, and still lifes balance representation with abstraction. Sharing her brother's birthplace, she, too, arrived in New York in 1913 and later became a U.S. citizen. She studied briefly at the National Academy of Design and worked with Edwin Dickinson in Provincetown. Following a brief marriage in the mid-1920s to Gatch, she left for Paris, which thereafter remained her principal residence. She sojourned often in New York and regularly showed her work there for more than sixty years. While living with the English writer Ford Maddox Ford for about ten years before his death in 1939, she illustrated several of his novels. In New York in 1943 she married Alsatian-born painter Daniel Brustlein (1904–96), who signed his New Yorker cartoons Alain. She died in Paris. Tworkov's daughter, painter Hermine Ford, is known for lively abstractions. She is married to New York painter Robert Moskowitz.