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Jennings Tofel (1891-1959)

  • Painter, poet, and essayist, Jennings Tofel was born on October 18, 1891, in Central Poland. After the death of his mother, his father Yosif Toflevicz immigrated with the family to New York in 1905 where they were reunited with other relatives. Prior to leaving Poland, Jennings had been injured and a month later his father noted his son’s “raised shoulder.” In his fall, a bone had been fractured, and he would have a deformed body for the rest of his life.

    While in New York his artistic talent was recognized, and he entered the Townsend Harris Hall preparatory school. In 1917 he was represented in a group exhibition at the Whitney Studio called “Introspective Art.” His first one-man exhibition came in 1919 at the Bourgeoisie Galleries. That same year, and for the next several years, he was represented in several group exhibitions in the North East, with artists such as Oscar Bluemner, Gaston Lachaise, and Joseph Stella.  Back in New York he was represented by the acclaimed Artists' Gallery and was honored with several one-man shows. He was a protégé of Alfred Stieglitz and friends with Georgia O’Keefe.

    In 1925, Tofel left for Europe to further his art studies. In 1928 he also lived and showed in Paris, where he had a one man exhibition at the Gallery Zak.  While visiting his native city of Tomashev in 1929, he met his wife to be and lifelong supporter, Pearl Weissberg, and after a few days of courtship quickly got married.

    The Tofels returned to New York where they never had a permanent address. In 1931 he had a one-man exhibition at the SPR Gallery, New York and in 1932 the Whitney Museum of American Art purchased “Hagar”. He was also represented in prestigious group exhibitions at the Jewish Museum in New York and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio.

    In the last nine years of his life, (1950-1959) Tofel exhibited at two-year intervals at the Artist’s Gallery. His later years were a time of uninterrupted work. Adventures, confrontations and victories appeared in his art. His color became more fluid and contrasting than ever. In 1959 after suffering for many years, his condition worsened and he died suddenly on Sept. 7, 1959. A retrospective exhibition was held at the Zabriskie Gallery in New York in 1964, and Tofel’s art was represented in the Art Dealers Association of America’s 2nd Annual Show at the Park Bernet Galleries. In 1976 Arthur Granick, a close personal friend and patron of Jennings Tofel, compiled a beautiful volume showcasing 63 colorplates and 129 black and whites published by Abrams.

    Here are the search results for Jennings Tofel on the Smithsonian American Art Museum website.

    These works by Jennings Tofel were collected by Anne and Arthur Granick while they lived in New York City. Anne Marcus was a Martha Graham dancer and Arthur Granick played viola under the direction of the great Toscanini. In 1933 they fell in love with each other and soon developed a passion for collecting art. Over several decades and with only modest means, they amassed an enormous and important collection of art that is now known as the "Granick Family Collection". The Granick's were close friends of Jennings and his wife Pearl, and Arthur authored a book on Tofel's life and work in 1976.

    The Granick's also collected the works of Milton Avery, Santos Rene Irizarry, John D. Graham, Alfred Maurer, David Burliuk, Ben-Zion Weinman, Charles W. Hutson, Juliet La Chaume, Samuel Lewis Shane, Herb Kruckman, African sculpture and the works of Arthur's mom, Liza Granick.

    We would like to thank Esther Granick (daughter of Anne and Arthur) for introducing us to this wonderful collection.
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