Born March 20, 1878, in Tuiemen, Siberia, Abraham Walkowitz immigrated to the United States with his family in 1889 and settled on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In 1894, he entered the National Academy of Design and also studied at the Art Students League of New York. In the early years of his career, Walkowitz produced lithographs and monotypes, as well as atmospheric oil paintings depicting his urban surroundings.
In 1906, after saving for four years to finance a trip to Europe, Walkowitz arrived in Paris, where he studied under Jean-Paul Laurens at the Académie Julian and met artist Max Weber. Weber introduced him to Matisse, Picasso, Rodin, Gertrude, and Leo Stein, all of whom exerted considerable influence on Walkowitz’s artistic development. He also met Isadora Duncan, who inspired him to create a series of figure studies that spanned four decades. While he was in Paris, the Salon d’Automne held an important memorial exhibition of Cézanne’s work, which captivated the artist and sparked his interest in building compositions through the harmonious balance of color, form, and line.
Walkowitz returned to New York in 1907 as a committed modernist and soon drew the attention of Alfred Stieglitz and others with his 1908 exhibition at the Haas Gallery. Several years later, in 1912, Stieglitz hosted the artist’s first solo exhibition at his gallery, 291. The men developed a mentor-student relationship, in which Stieglitz offered both financial and emotional support to Walkowitz from 1912 to 1917, when Stieglitz’s gallery closed. During these years, Walkowitz’s art underwent a complete transition into abstraction, which persisted through the mid-1920s. He continued to work until the mid-1940s, when the glaucoma that would eventually blind him made it impossible to paint. He died in Brooklyn in 1965.