The Paintings of Tennessee Williams

The Editors

 

Long known as “Mr. Key West,” David Wolkowsky, the famed scion of Florida’s pioneer Jewish family that helped to settle Key West in the 1800s, has loaned his paintings by close friend Tennessee Williams to the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU for their premiere in Miami Beach.

 

This is one of the few times they have been exhibited outside of Key West. The exhibition Tennessee Williams: Playwright and Painter is an intimate showing of nine rare paintings by one of America’s greatest playwrights, created by Williams in Key West during the 1970s. One of his closest friends was David Wolkowsky, the Key West developer who owned a private island called Ballast Key (nine miles from Key West), and the Pier House Resort.



Both idyllic locations were the scene of many glamorous gatherings hosted by David and Tennessee, including parties for Hollywood luminaries, heads of state, and society’s crème-de-la-crème.

 

Subject matter includes the writer’s famous cohorts during the 1970s in Key West (including a portrait of a young Michael York), and personifications from Williams’ own poetry, short stories, and characters from his plays.

 

Wolkowsky, who still lives in Key West and is almost 100, is from one of the earliest Jewish families of Florida, and their history is documented as part of the Jewish Museum of Florida’s permanent collection about the history of Jews in the State of Florida

 

Williams was often found at Wolkowsky’s private, celeb-drenched affairs. Guests included the likes of Truman Capote, British Prime Minister Edward Heath, and members of the Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Mellon families. According to Key West lore, Wolkowsky was notorious for serving plain hot dogs, white wine and potato chips to his famous guests, while Tennessee painted and drank red wine.

 

“The fact that Williams painted, much less that he painted in Key West, is a surprise to many and his paintings have mostly remained outside of the public eye. We are honored to have these works here at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, and to be one of the few museums that David Wolkowsky has selected to exhibit these works outside of their Key West home,” according to Susan Gladstone, the Executive Director of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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