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This article is taken from PN Review 253, Volume 46 Number 5, May - June 2020.

Biala in Provincetown Mary Maxwell
Two summers ago Ford Madox Ford sat in the windowed front gallery of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Or rather, it was Janice Biala’s painted image of him (Portrait d’un Écrivain, 1938) that seemed to ponder the late-summer comings and goings of the town’s Commercial Street.  I suspect that most visitors to Biala: Provincetown Summers were confused as to what exactly Ford was doing there, his peach and blue form awkwardly seated among her abstracted street scenes, interiors and seascapes.

For those familiar with Cape Cod art history, Janice Biala is primarily known as the sister of the artist Jack Tworkov. The pair had first come from New York City together in 1923 to study with Charles Hawthorne and his traditional plein-air approaches. Both quickly turned to other more experimental teachers. It was with Edwin ‘Dick’ Dickinson, Janice said, that she ‘found her true way’. Biala, like Dickinson, was from the start a ‘modernist’. This designation was made official by the Provincetown Art Association’s 1927 ‘First Modernist Exhibition’ in which Biala’s earliest works were included.  From the perspective of her future career, there is something distinctly prophetic in the show’s title; only three years later Biala would be off to the continent.

In Paris Biala was almost immediately introduced to Ford and his circle of high modernist cohorts. Ford, of course, had for nearly two decades served as mentor and senior colleague to Pound, Williams and Stein, among many others. And it was through Ford and his circle that ...


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