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 Alex F. Yaworski  (1907 - 1997)

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Lived/Active: Illinois/Missouri/Kansas / Russian Federation      Known for: impressionist, luminous landscapes and buildings, commercial art

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Ad Code: 3
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Amnicon Falls #2, watercolor and acrylics on paper, 30” X 22”
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following information was submitted in September 2013 by Don Yaworski, son of the artist.

Alex F. Yaworski, A.W.S., 1907-1997

Alex F. Yaworski was born on December 29, 1907 in Odessa, Russia, now Ukraine. His father, Anton was a master wood worker and furniture maker who painted occasionally, and his mother, Anna had been a cook for a group of generals of the Czarist Army during the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. They met while Anton took care of cavalry horses during the same war. They were not supposed to be seeing each other but defied that idea and ran off together, when he returned from Mukden, Manchuria to Russia after the war. They married and in about 1909, Anton left for the United States, entering through Canada instead of Ellis Island. He found a place to live and work in Superior, Wisconsin. Anna, along with Alex and his older brother Nicholas, came over a year later to join him. Five more siblings were born in the U.S., the last one not surviving beyond young childhood.

Alex loved to draw as a child and during grade school at Bryant School in South Superior, he won the school-wide art contest by drawing the best rendition of “Black Beauty.” His goal from an early age was to be an artist. After graduating high school, he intended on saving enough money to go to Chicago and attend art school. The plan was not working very well because every time he accumulated some cash, his father would take it from him. So he left for Chicago with only about $50 in his pocket. He was accepted at the American Academy of Art and graduated in 1931. He worked his way through by washing windows for meals and by landing a plum position in the school art supply store. A part of his job was to clear out students’ lockers at the end of each term. He said that it was amazing how many art supplies that the students would leave behind. He benefited by using some of those supplies and selling what he could not use.

During his last year at the Academy and for a while after, he taught Life Drawing there. His first job out of art school was with the art department of the Chicago Tribune, and in a few years, he was freelancing as a commercial illustrator. It was at this time that he was doing work for Sears Roebuck and met Maurine Bell in their advertising department. She had a very young daughter, Ernine, from her first marriage. Alex and Maurine were married in June of 1936 and so immediately, they formed a family of three.  Son, Don came along twelve years later.

During the World War II years, Alex worked for Poster Products in Chicago and received draft deferments for rendering war posters and also for serving as a foreman on an army tent production line at Poster Products.

After the war, Alex was freelancing again and did illustration work for a number of companies. He illustrated the Sears Roebuck Christmas Book covers from 1948 through 1954. For the period from the 1950s into the 1980s, he did work for The DuPont Company, Seagram Company, Ben Franklin Stores, Oscar Mayer, The Chicago Tribune, The Bernard Picture Company, and many other organizations. During the 1950s, Alex drew the cartoon character, Little Oscar for Oscar Mayer many times but not nearly as many times as he would eventually draw Benjamin Franklin for the Ben Franklin Stores. He made the claim that he had done more portraits of Benjamin Franklin than any other artist, alive or not.

Since the early 1950s, Alex did a number of paintings that became covers on the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine. In the late 1960s after there had been quite a few letters to the Tribune asking if there were prints of these paintings, suitable for framing, Alex started producing lithographs of Chicago paintings. Eventually, there were over a dozen to choose from and Maurine jokingly never forgave him. She said that she did not marry him to become his shipping clerk.

In the 1960s and into the 1970s, Bernard Picture Company commissioned Alex to paint a series of paintings of Europe to be made into lithographs that were sold in the U.S. and Canada. He painted so many of these things that at one point, he was told that there was some concern at the company that too many prints in their product line bore the signature, Yaworski. So for the next series of paintings that happened to be of French scenes, he signed them “Francois.”

Over the years, he always worked on his own fine art on the side and as time went on, the fine art career overtook the commercial career. Basically, he was a landscape painter working in watercolor, gouache, casein, and acrylics. While he did many paintings of Chicago during the years, he would take time out almost anywhere he traveled to paint on location. One place that Alex went back to yearly for almost his whole life was Northern Wisconsin, the area where he grew up. Alex painted the scenic beauty of Northern Wisconsin but also the gritty industrial side of the twin ports of Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota.

For many years, he painted together with his older brother, Nic and his younger brother, Tony. Nic worked for the government in Washington D.C. and Tony taught high school art and continuing education art in Superior for over forty years. Nic died in 1973 and it then was Alex and Tony painting together until in later years, Alex’s son Don and Alex and Tony’s nephew, Bill joined them on the painting expeditions in the Northland.

Alex F. Yaworski was a member of many arts organizations and was the proudest of his association with the American Watercolor Society. In 1953, he became a signature member, and although each year was a different jury, his paintings were accepted at their annual exhibition in New York for over twenty years in a row.

For a number of years, Alex exhibited at the Chicago Art Institute’s “Sales and Rental Gallery.” People would rent his paintings and most of the time purchase them after getting used to them in the home. It was a wonderful way for him to market his paintings and the gallery liked him, because his paintings were constantly moving.

Alex performed many Demonstration Paintings for arts and civic organizations in the Chicago area and sometimes out of town. I use the word “perform” because in an hour and a half, he would paint a wonderful watercolor, all the while telling stories that would engage the audience and make them laugh. Early on in his Demonstration career, he would switch the brush from his left hand to his right when it would allow more people to see what he was doing or when the stroke was more appropriate to the right or left. He was naturally ambidextrous and did this automatically but noticed that it produced chuckles from the crowd. So from then on, he played it up and it was part of the show. Depending on the organization and the agreement, the painting that had just been completed would sometimes be immediately auctioned off as a fundraiser. Occasionally he would perform a “parlor trick” with his signature on a separate piece of paper. He would sign Alex F. Yaworski the normal way with his right hand and simultaneously sign his name backwards from the same point with his left hand. The result was a mirror image of his signature.

Maurine passed away in 1983 and by 1991, Alex’s health difficulties made it important for him to move to Kansas City, Missouri to be near his son. He loved Chicago and lived there for over sixty years but continued to paint after his move and came to enjoy his new home. He especially liked the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City and sometimes after seeing a special exhibition, he might insist on being taken to the permanent collection of Western paintings to see his favorite Van Gogh and Monet paintings, so that he could “cleanse his palate.”

Alex F. Yaworski died on March 25, 1997. 

Art Institute of Chicago, (Chicago and Vicinity Annuals and American Exhibition)
American Watercolor Society, NY, over 20 consecutive years of acceptances plus
many others 
“200 Years of Watercolor” Metropolitan Museum, NY, 1966 - 1967
Watercolor USA, Springfield, MO
Springfield Museum, Springfield, IL
Artist Guild of Chicago
National Academy of Design, NY
North Shore Artists Annuals, Evanston, IL 
Municipal Art League of Chicago
Midwest Watercolor Society
Union League Club of Chicago
Mexico City Summer Olympics Exhibition, 1968
Solo traveling exhibition sponsored by Old Bergen Art Guild, Bayonne, NJ and in
Canadian Traveling Exhibit by same sponsor

Solo Shows:
Chicago Press Club
Union League Club of Chicago
Thor Gallery of Louisville
Chicago Main Library
Artist Guild of Chicago
Tower Park Gallery, Peoria, IL
Tweed Museum, Duluth, MN
Invitational Exhibit, Mitchell Museum, Mount Vernon, IL, 1983
Was represented in the Art Institute of Chicago Sales and Rental Gallery

Watercolor USA, Springfield, MO
Springfield Museum, Springfield, IL
Tweed Museum, Duluth, MN
Union League Club, Chicago
The Artist Guild of Chicago 
Charles and Emma Frye Museum, Seattle, WA
Chicago Tribune
Mid America Red Cross, Chicago
Also in many corporate and private collections

American Watercolor Society (The Dagmar Haagstrom Tribble Prize and The Emily Goldsmith Award), chosen for several of their traveling shows
Watercolor USA, awards in three of their annuals 
National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylics, 3 awards including the Naomi Lorne Memorial Medal in 1967
The Artists Guild of Chicago, several awards including 4 consecutive annual First Awards in Watercolor
Neo Graphics Annual, Philadelphia, Gold Medal Award, 1976
Union League of Chicago, First Award for Watercolor and awards in two of their other biennials
North Shore Artists, 3 First Awards, 1 Second
Selected for Inclusion, “Who’s Who in American Art,” 1983
Illinois Watercolor Society, Award of Excellence, 1983 & 1984
Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors, Gold Medal, 1983
Reliance Universal Award, Aqueus ’86 National Annual Exhibition, Louisville, KY, Selected for their One Year Traveling Exhibition
The Municipal Art League of Chicago, various awards including the Frank R. Chesrow Gold Medal Grand Award, 1984, President’s Award, 1987 and Award of   Excellence, 1997

American Watercolor Society, NY
Midsouthern Watercolor Society, Little Rock, AK
Midwest Watercolor Society, Manitowoc, WI
Iowa Watercolor Society, Des Moines
Palette and Chisel Academy, Chicago, IL
51st Annual Indiana Artists Club, Inc. Fine Art Exhibition, Indianapolis, 1983
Juror of Selection, 1984 Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors
1986 Annual Watercolor Exhibition of the Artists Guild of Chicago

American Watercolor Society, NY (Signature Member for over 44 years); Midwest
Vice President, awarded Life Member status 1997
Midwest Watercolor Society (Now Transparent Watercolor Society of America), Signature Member
Municipal Art League of Chicago, VP, 1982
Artist Guild of Chicago; President, 1947, 1948 and again in 1961; became an Honorary Member in 1968
Fellow, International Institute of Arts and Letters, Zurich, Switzerland
National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylics, NY
Made Member of Watercolor Honor Society (WHS) of Watercolor USA, Springfield, MO, 1986

Featured in Watson-Guptill book, Watercolorists at Work
American Artists Magazine articles, including the “Watercolor Page”
Included in book Landscapes and Seascapes in Watercolor, edited by Norman Kent, Watson-Guptill, 1956
Included in book Acrylic Watercolor Painting by Wendon Blake, 1970
Included in book Watercolor: Let the Medium Do It by Valfred Thelin with Patricia Burlin, 1988 
Included in book Handmade Holiday Cards from 20th Century Artists, From the Collections of the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, by Mary Savig, 2012

American Academy of Art, Chicago, IL, 1931

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