Jacques Hnizdovsky was born on January 27, 1915 in Ukraine during a time of great political upheaval, the collapse of Tsarist rule, the rise of Leninism/Marxism and the confiscation of land and Siberian exile for most of his family. Being away at boarding school at the time of great political upheaval, Jacques, the youngest of seven children, was able to escape this fate, although as a result, at the age of 14, he would never see his family again.
Jacques Hnizdovsky studied fine arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw for two semesters, then transferred to the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb when Germany invaded Poland. He worked from a human model and had an interest in portraiture. The works of Dürer and Japanese Ukiyo-e influenced him greatly.
Jacques Hnizdovsky was self-taught in the art of printmaking, yet would come to be known as one of the world's most noted printmakers and its most noted woodcut artist.
Having lost everything during the war, he arrived in the United States penniless, yet was determined to overcome many hardships to become an independent artist.
Shortly after his arrival to the United States in 1949, A. Hyatt Mayor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art chose one of his woodcuts for a Purchase Award at a 1950 Minneapolis Institute of Arts print exhibition. It was a turning point in his career and his life. From that moment, he was determined to make his livelihood as an independant artist, gave up his work as a commercial textile and calendar artist, and moved to New York City.
In 1962 he was awarded the First Prize at the Boston Printmakers annual exhibition for his print “The Sheep”. "The Sheep" was to become his best-known and most successful print, selling out almost immediately.
Hnizdovsky's work can be best described as stylized realism, even though his early work encompassed social commentary as well.
He was to become best known for his woodcuts of flora and fauna, yet Hnizdovsky created almost as many paintings as prints, painting during the day, and carving his wood and linoleum blocks in the evening. Weekends were reserved for printing the editions at home.
Hnizdovsky produced hundreds of paintings, watercolors and pen and ink drawings, as well as over 375 prints (woodcuts, linocuts and etchings), as well as a large number of bookplates (ex libris), many of them small woodblock prints.
Hnizdovsky was invited to participate in the Contemporary U.S. Graphic Arts exhibition which traveled to the U.S.S.R. in 1963, as well as a similar exhibition to Japan in 1967. His woodcuts were included in the Triennale Internazionale della Xilographica in Italy in 1972.
In 1977 shows of his woodcuts were held at the Long Beach Museum of Art and Yale University, and in 1978 and 1982 at the University of Virginia and at the Hermitage Museum in 1981. (highly abridged)
He received a Tiffany Fellowship in 1961, and fellowships from the following: MacDowell Colony in 1963, 1971, 1976, 1977; Yaddo Foundation in 1978; Ossabaw Foundation in 1980; Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1984.
In 1975 a catalogue raisonné "Hnizdovsky Woodcuts 1944-1975" was published by Pelican Publishing Company. In 1987 an updated version "Jacques Hnizdovsky Woodcuts and Etchings" was published, which includes all woodcuts, linocuts and etchings created during the artist's lifetime.
Hnizdovsky has contributed illustrations to The Poems of John Keats, 1964; The Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1967; Tree Trails of Central Park, 1971; Flora Exotica, 1972; The Poems of Thomas Hardy, 1979; The Traveler’s Tree, 1980; The Poetry of Robert Frost, 1981; Signum Et Verbum, 1981; A Green Place, 1982; Birds and Beasts, 1990; Behind the King’s Kitchen, 1992; The Girl in Glass in 2002; and The Adventurous Gardener in 2005. (partial list, he has illustrated hundreds)
Among the numerous permanent collections with woodcuts by Hnizdovsky are: The Addison Gallery of American Art, Burnaby Art Gallery, Butler Institute of American Art, Chrysler Museum, Cleveland Museum of Fine Arts, Davison Art Center, Duke University Museum of Art, Dulin Gallery of Art, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Louisiana Arts and Science Center, Louisiana State Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Mississippi Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, National Museum of American Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, New York Public Library, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Tweed Museum of Art, The U.S. Information Agency, Library of Congress and White House, University of Delaware,Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Winnipeg Art Gallery and Yale University. (abridged list)
Jacques Hnizdovsky passed away on November 8, 1985, just days after printing his last woodcut, Washington Monument, a tribute to his adopted country.