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John (Jan) Zwara

male 1880-1951
20th Century
Life city:
Indianapolis, IN
Work city:
Indianapolis, IN
Still Lifes
re: John (Jan) Zwara -

  • Marion County

We're very interested in buying artwork by John (Jan) Zwara. Please contact us for more information.

A native of Hungary/The Czech Republic, John (or Jan) Zwara came to the U.S. at the age of 24. Initially he was based out of Omaha and painted throughout the Western U.S.

Zwara held many construction jobs as a laborer and never really perfected English as a second language. He appeared in Indianapolis and Brown County around 1933.

Zwara was known as a prolific painter and he produced many pieces for two Indianapolis art dealers: H. Lieber and Lyman Brothers.

He was notorious for ‘wandering unaccountably’, painting all the while. In fact, he gave hardly a nod to politeness when people tried to engage him — rather, he just kept painting.

Zwara was thought to have been mentally ill and he was institutionalized at Central State mental hospital in Indianapolis for six months (at which point he wandered off and never returned).

Zwara’s admission and seeking of treatment was at the prompting of Alex Vonnegut (Kurt’s uncle) who was a patron of the arts and artists. Vonnegut was once asked why he put up with Zwara’s inconsistent behavior and his legendary response went something like ‘because he paints so well!’

We’re very interested in purchasing pieces by John Zwara. Please contact us if you have artwork you are considering selling.


Can you tell us more about the life or art of John (Jan) Zwara? Please contact us if you can add to our biography.

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