Charles Turzak

American, 1899 - 1986


Printmaker, Painter, Illustrator, Watercolorist, Cartoonist, Designer, Author, Lecturer, Teacher

Charles Turzak was the third child, and the only son of his Czechoslovakian immigrant parents. He was born August 20, 1899 in Streeter, Illinois. His father, a coal miner, worked from before sunrise 'till after dusk, so many rural chores occupied Charlie's boyhood years. But, sometimes he would sneak away from his duties to do what he enjoyed most . . .carefully carve peach seeds into miniature monkeys, which he would sell for pennies.

When he was nine he started elementary school; an apprenticeship making violins soon followed. Drawings and cartoons for his school's yearbook and sale bills for local merchants were the channels for his self-taught artistic talent. Shortly before he started high school, the United States entered World War I. His artwork was filled with soldiers and military artillery. But, by the time he was old enough to enlist, the war was over and he settled back into finishing his schooling. His father was determined that young Charles would be a professional man, a doctor or lawyer.

At the time of his high-school graduation in 1920, he won a cartoon contest sponsored by The Purina Company, St. Louis, Missouri. The first prize money and the prestige of being a winner earned him entrance to art education at The Art Institute of Chicago, overriding his father's fiery objections. His excellence in drawing and woodcarving rewarded him with membership in Delta Phi Delta, an honorary art fraternity. Freelance advertising, selling insurance, and teaching a class in woodcut and wood engraving at The Academy of Fine Arts funded him through his college graduation, 1924.

Commissioned in 1927 to illustrate a privately printed book, Charles Turzak created ten amusing woodcuts. The book was titled EASTWARD WHOA! and authored by Ben C. Pittsford, who owned an advertising agency in Chicago, Illinois. The book contains a humorous diary travel log interspersed with boyhood reminisces, and comical events during the four Pittsford brother's (who referred to themselves as "The Four Horsemen") auto trip to New York Citya two week holiday in the spring of 1927.

During the same year he made two prints showing Northwestern University scenes. One was of the first building built on the Evanston campus, titled Old College, and the other in total contrast both in architecture and mood was of the downtown campus, titled Northwestern University (Chicago Campus). Then in December of 1932 he continued the Northwestern University scenes with two more prints: Men's Quadrangle and Union Building. Combined with the two scenes from 1927 they became a suite of four images.

By the late 1920's he had gained public attention from exhibiting and selling his prints of: The Chicago Water Tower, Gypsy Girl, The Wine Press, Dry Docks, Monkey Doorway, Velky Strom, Autumn, The Tribune Tower, Carl Sandburg, Buckingham Fountain, Jewelers Building, "333", Forth Church, Gravel Barges and watercolors of steel mills, boats, harbors, skylines, woodlands, parks, and still lifes. The interest and notoriety helped to establish his commercial career in advertising.

In 1929 he made a trip to Europe. It would be his chance to study "The Masters" first hand. He sailed to England, and from there traveled through Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and France. City after city, day after day, he explored the museums' great works of art. In the streets and countryside he captured European life in flowing watercolor studies. His sketch books were filled with drawings of people, markets, castles, churches, bridges, a carnival at Munich, the peasantry of his parent's home, Spisska Nova Ves, the funeral of his mother's Aunt Julia, even an argument between two women in Vienna over where their garbage should be kept.

On his return to the U.S. the great Wall Street Crash enveloped everything. Businesses, banks, and clients virtually disappeared over night. Three of the watercolors done in Europe were quickly turned into festive multicolored peasant prints requiring from four to seven individually registered blocks . . . Peasants and Melons, Girl with Goose, and Weighing the Geese. Another watercolor was used for a black and white print, Czechoslovakian Landscape. They depicted the little village of his parent's home. Other watercolors were finished as oil paintings vividly picturing the rural and urban life he had seen on his trip.

The following biography was written by and is reprinted with the permission of the artist's daughter, Joan Turzak Van Hees.

  • Turzak 9466

    Alexander Hamilton as Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, 1939
    Woodcut
    7 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches

    Signed in pencil; titled on label on reverse.

    #9466
  • Turzak 9462

    Alexander Hamilton as Political Leader, 1939
    Woodcut
    7 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches

    Signed in pencil; titled on label on reverse.

    #9462
  • Turzak 9463

    Alexander Hamilton -- Financial Leader, 1939
    Woodcut
    7 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches

    Signed in pencil; titled on label on reverse.

    #9463
  • Turzak 9465

    Alexander Hamilton at Age of Fifteen, 1939
    Woodcut
    7 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches

    Signed in pencil; titled on label on reverse.

    #9465
  • Turzak 9464

    Alexander Hamilton as a Youth, 1939
    Woodcut
    7 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches

    Signed in pencil; titled on label on reverse.

    #9464
  • Turzak 8435

    Palm Olive Building, 1931
    Woodcut
    12 x 8 3/4 inches

    Signed, titled and numbered in pencil.

    #8435
  • Turzak 8432

    Shadows on the Avenue, 1931-1933
    Woodcut
    13 x 8 1/2 inches

    Signed and titled in pencil.

    #8432
    SOLD
  • Turzak 8434

    Michigan Avenue Bridge, 1929
    Woodcut
    12 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches

    Signed, titled and numbered in pencil.

    #8434
    SOLD
  • Turzak 8468

    LaSalle Street, 1933-1934
    Linoleum Cut
    11 x 9 inches

    Signed and titled in pencil.

    #8468
  • Turzak 8433

    Old Water Tower (Chicago), ca. 1940
    Woodcut
    10 x 6 1/2 inches

    Signed and titled in pencil.

    #8433
  • Turzak 8437

    Merchandise Mart, 1931
    Woodcut
    8 3/4 x 11 1/8 inches

    Signed, titled and numbered in pencil.

    #8437
  • Turzak 8438

    Methodist Temple, Chicago, 1931
    Woodcut
    13 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches

    Signed, titled and numbered in pencil.

    #8438
  • Turzak 8439

    Adler Planetarium, ca. 1930-31
    Woodcut
    7 3/4 x 10 3/8 inches

    Signed and titled in pencil.

    #8439
    SOLD
  • Turzak 8443

    Under the Bridge, 1934
    Color Woodcut on Japan paper
    8 x 10 1/2 inches

    Signed and titled in pencil.

    #8443
    SOLD
  • Turzak 8464

    The Fountain, ca. 1927
    Color Woodcut on Japan paper
    5 1/2 x 8 inches

    Signed and titled in pencil.

    #8464
    SOLD
  • Turzak 8442

    Randolph Street - Chicago (From the series "Chicago Moods in Color"), 1935-1936
    Color Woodcut on Japan paper
    12 1/4 x 9 1/4 inches

    Signed and titled in pencil.

    #8442
  • Turzak 8440

    Loop Alley, ca. 1935
    Color Woodcut
    11 x 8 3/4 inches

    Signed and titled in pencil.

    #8440
  • Turzak 8441

    North Branch of the Chicago River
    Color Woodcut
    9 x 12 inches

    Signed and titled in pencil.

    #8441
  • Turzak 8469

    Chicago Snow Storm (Work Relief), 1934
    Woodcut
    8 3/8 x 11 1/2 inches

    Signed and titled in pencil.

    #8469
    SOLD
  • Turzak 8444

    Grant Park, 1931/33
    Woodcut
    12 x 9 1/4 inches

    Signed, titled and numbered in pencil.

    #8444
    SOLD
  • Turzak 8448

    The Workers, 1934
    Woodcut
    6 x 4 1/2 inches

    Signed, titled and numbered in pencil.

    #8448
  • Turzak 8447

    Depression-Man with Shovel I, 1935
    Linoleum Cut
    2 3/4 x 1 3/4 inches

    Signed in pencil.

    #8447
  • Turzak 8445

    Ghetto, 1931
    Woodcut
    12 x 9 1/4 inches

    Signed, titled and numbered in pencil.

    #8445
  • Turzak 8446

    Forms Masculine, Feminine, 1932
    Woodcut
    12 x 8 3/4 inches

    Signed, titled and numbered in pencil.

    #8446
  • Turzak 8470

    Oak Street Beach, 1935
    Woodcut
    5 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches

    Signed and titled in pencil.

    #8470
    SOLD
  • Turzak 8451

    Birds Eye View Pictoral Map of Chicago Published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Tudor Press, Boston, MA , 1931
    Lithograph, mounted on linene
    23 x 37 1/2 inches
    #8451
    SOLD
  • Turzak 8477

    An Illustrated Map of Chicago Published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Tudor Press, Boston, MA , 1931
    Lithograph
    9 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches
    #8477
    SOLD

Printmaker, Painter, Illustrator, Watercolorist, Cartoonist, Designer, Author, Lecturer, Teacher

Charles Turzak was the third child, and the only son of his Czechoslovakian immigrant parents. He was born August 20, 1899 in Streeter, Illinois. His father, a coal miner, worked from before sunrise 'till after dusk, so many rural chores occupied Charlie's boyhood years. But, sometimes he would sneak away from his duties to do what he enjoyed most . . .carefully carve peach seeds into miniature monkeys, which he would sell for pennies.

When he was nine he started elementary school; an apprenticeship making violins soon followed. Drawings and cartoons for his school's yearbook and sale bills for local merchants were the channels for his self-taught artistic talent. Shortly before he started high school, the United States entered World War I. His artwork was filled with soldiers and military artillery. But, by the time he was old enough to enlist, the war was over and he settled back into finishing his schooling. His father was determined that young Charles would be a professional man, a doctor or lawyer.

At the time of his high-school graduation in 1920, he won a cartoon contest sponsored by The Purina Company, St. Louis, Missouri. The first prize money and the prestige of being a winner earned him entrance to art education at The Art Institute of Chicago, overriding his father's fiery objections. His excellence in drawing and woodcarving rewarded him with membership in Delta Phi Delta, an honorary art fraternity. Freelance advertising, selling insurance, and teaching a class in woodcut and wood engraving at The Academy of Fine Arts funded him through his college graduation, 1924.

Commissioned in 1927 to illustrate a privately printed book, Charles Turzak created ten amusing woodcuts. The book was titled EASTWARD WHOA! and authored by Ben C. Pittsford, who owned an advertising agency in Chicago, Illinois. The book contains a humorous diary travel log interspersed with boyhood reminisces, and comical events during the four Pittsford brother's (who referred to themselves as "The Four Horsemen") auto trip to New York Citya two week holiday in the spring of 1927.

During the same year he made two prints showing Northwestern University scenes. One was of the first building built on the Evanston campus, titled Old College, and the other in total contrast both in architecture and mood was of the downtown campus, titled Northwestern University (Chicago Campus). Then in December of 1932 he continued the Northwestern University scenes with two more prints: Men's Quadrangle and Union Building. Combined with the two scenes from 1927 they became a suite of four images.

By the late 1920's he had gained public attention from exhibiting and selling his prints of: The Chicago Water Tower, Gypsy Girl, The Wine Press, Dry Docks, Monkey Doorway, Velky Strom, Autumn, The Tribune Tower, Carl Sandburg, Buckingham Fountain, Jewelers Building, "333", Forth Church, Gravel Barges and watercolors of steel mills, boats, harbors, skylines, woodlands, parks, and still lifes. The interest and notoriety helped to establish his commercial career in advertising.

In 1929 he made a trip to Europe. It would be his chance to study "The Masters" first hand. He sailed to England, and from there traveled through Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and France. City after city, day after day, he explored the museums' great works of art. In the streets and countryside he captured European life in flowing watercolor studies. His sketch books were filled with drawings of people, markets, castles, churches, bridges, a carnival at Munich, the peasantry of his parent's home, Spisska Nova Ves, the funeral of his mother's Aunt Julia, even an argument between two women in Vienna over where their garbage should be kept.

On his return to the U.S. the great Wall Street Crash enveloped everything. Businesses, banks, and clients virtually disappeared over night. Three of the watercolors done in Europe were quickly turned into festive multicolored peasant prints requiring from four to seven individually registered blocks . . . Peasants and Melons, Girl with Goose, and Weighing the Geese. Another watercolor was used for a black and white print, Czechoslovakian Landscape. They depicted the little village of his parent's home. Other watercolors were finished as oil paintings vividly picturing the rural and urban life he had seen on his trip.

The following biography was written by and is reprinted with the permission of the artist's daughter, Joan Turzak Van Hees.

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