Abraham Walkowitz (1878-1965) worked in many genres–cityscapes, landscapes, portraits, the figure. Chaim Gross collected around a dozen works by Walkowitz and they mainly show the figure in the world–on the city street, at work at the coast, or showing off at the circus. For Chaim the allure of these themes in Walkowitz’s art was probably because of his own preference in his figurative sculpture for performers, urbanites, and circus people in action. Chaim clearly admired Walkowitz, though today, his work seems to have fallen out of favor to curators and art historians; it appears the most recent shows were in 2005, an exhibition at the Wichita Art Museum; and a show on probably his best-known work, his studies of Isadora Duncan, which were featured at Zabriskie Gallery. In 1944 the Brooklyn Museum staged a great-sounding and popular show, One Hundred Artists and Walkowitz, for which 100 of his contemporaries drew portraits of Walkowitz (including Chaim).
Born in Sibera, Russia to a Jewish family, Walkowitz emigrated to New York as a child, like Chaim. He went to Paris in 1906 to study at the Academie Julian and first exhibited in 1911 at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery; he stayed with the gallery until 1917. Chaim owned watercolors by Walkowitz from this early period, such as this soft watercolor of four women in a street from 1909:
And here’s another watercolor from the same time, of a gritty city punctuated by two red flowers, in a woman’s hand and on another’s hat:
Here’s one of Orchard Street which is in Manhattan’s Lower East Side:
And a later work, from 1917, a great close-up of three women and one man:
It’s interesting that the faces of the figures disappear when Walkowitz turned his attention to the fishermen at work in Rockport, Maine, in this watercolor from 1932:
Rather than studying their expressions, Walkowitz studies the relationships of the bodies and their movement to and fro. Bodies in motion is the subject of Walkowitz’s great painting, Circus, which Chaim hung for many years in his living room:
All of the works here are available for viewing and study at the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation.