Jacques Hnizdovsky was born in Ukraine to direct descendants of a noble family bearing the Korab coat of arms. The youngest of seven children, he was the only one in his family that was able to emigrate to the west. Being titled landowners, the entire family was exiled to Siberia. His mother managed to get a secret message to him while he was in boarding school, and he realized he could never return home. He enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, but when war broke out, had to quickly transfer to the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. After many difficult years in war-torn Europe and in Displaced Persons Camps, he emigrated to the US in 1949. He arrived in the US peniless, with nothing but the clothes on his back. All had been lost or destroyed during the war.
Hnizdovsky proceeded to create hundreds of paintings, numerous watercolors and pen and ink drawings, as well as over 375 prints (woodcuts, linocuts and etchings) after his move to the United States in 1949. Shortly after his arrival, A. Hyatt Mayor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art chose one of his woodcuts for a Purchase Award at a 1950 Minneapolis Institute of Art print exhibition. It was a turning point in his career and his life. From that moment on, he was determined to make his livelihood as an independant 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 print, and can be seen in the film "The Hours" with Meryl Streep. Hnizdovsky's work can be best described as stylized realism and draws inspiration from Dürer, Ukiyo-e and Chinese painting. Jacques was to become best known for his prints of animals and trees, yet many never realized that Hnizdovsky created perhaps more paintings than prints, painting during the day, and working on his prints in the evenings. Weekends were reserved for printing the woodcuts, linocuts or etchings.
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 Art Museum, California, and Yale University, and in 1978 and 1982 at the University of Virginia and at the Hermitage Museum of Norfolk, Virginia, in 1981. 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 of his woodcuts "Hnizdovsky Woodcuts 1944 - 1975" was published by Pelican Publishing Company of Gretna, Louisiana. In 1987 an updated version "Jacques Hnizdovsky Woodcuts and Etchings" was published, including all woodcuts, linocuts and etchings made during his 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. This list is but a sampling of the books he has illustrated and designed covers for.
Among the numerous permanent collections with woodcuts by Hnizdovsky are: The Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA; Burnaby Art Gallery, British Columbia; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH; Chrysler Museum at Norfolk, VA; Cleveland Museum of Fine Arts; Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University; Duke University Museum of Art, Durham, NC; Dulin Gallery of Art, Knoxville, TN; Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Pittsburgh; Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle; Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Laurel, MS; Louisiana Arts and Science Center, Baton Rouge; Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; New Orleans Museum of Art; New York Public Library; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota; The U.S. Information Agency, Washington, DC; Library of Congress and White House, Washington, DC; University of Delaware; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Winnipeg Art Gallery and Yale University. This again, is a highly abridged list.
Jacques Hnizdovsky died on November 8, 1985 in New York.