In Memoriam: Robert Winokur

Paula and Robert (Bob) Winokur. Image courtesy of Bob Winokur's Facebook.


Robert (Bob) Winokur (BFA ‘56), a renowned ceramic artist and alumnus of and professor at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, died on May 28, 2020. He was 86.

Winokur first became interested in ceramics in high school. He pursued his interest at Tyler, then at Alfred University, where he earned his MFA in 1958. It was also in 1958 when Winokur married his late-wife, the groundbreaking and internationally-acclaimed artist Paula Colton Winokur (Tyler BFA and BS Ed ‘58). Together, the Winokurs maintained a shared ceramics studio for more than 50 years—half being the porcelain or “light” side and the other the stoneware or “dark” side, according to Paula in a 2013 interview produced by the James A. Michener Art Museum.

In 1966, Winkour would return to Tyler, this time as professor of ceramics, and also department chair from 1988–1991. He retired in 2005 as professor emeritus. Today, the Robert Winokur Award is given annually to an outstanding graduating Tyler student, honoring Winokur’s many years as an influential and dedicated educator as well as his international reputation as an artist. 

Winokur’s practice evolved over the years, with stylized house forms being a recurrent subject. He considered their physical and metaphorical space as vessels themselves. “Bob through his use of salt glaze was able to achieve an extraordinary range of succulent colors,” said longtime friend and supporter Helen Drutt English. “There was no one like him anywhere.” 

Winokur’s playfulness and personality was reflected in his artistic practice, with his work often drawing inspiration from children’s drawings. “I don’t know when it was that I became fascinated and enthralled by artwork done by children and in particular with the drawings and paintings done by them of houses. What I find truly compelling about these works was their innocence, exuberance and spontaneity.” (Artist Statement, Kings Oak Art

His works appear in dozens of public and private collections around the world, including Le cite du Ceramics: Limoges and the Museum du Sevres at The Museum of Decorative Arts, The Louvre, Paris, France; The Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; International Ceramic Studio, Kecskemet, Hungary; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; International Academy of Ceramics, Geneva, Switzerland; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Among his extensive list of awards and accolades are a Visual Artists Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1979); an honorary fellow of The National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts (1983); fellowships in crafts by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (2003 and 1988); an American Crafts Council College of Fellows inductee (2002); and a member of The International Academy of Ceramics, Geneva, Switzerland (2004). In 2011, he was selected for an oral history interview by the Smithsonian Archives of American Art. His works have appeared in numerous journals and national and international exhibitions—including a forthcoming exhibition at the National Museum of Sweden, Stockholm in October, 2022.

Winokur is survived by his two children: Stephan and Michael.