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Marguerite Zorach

 (1887 - 1968)
Marguerite Thompson Zorach was active/lived in New York, Maine, California.  Marguerite Zorach is known for modernist landscape, figure and genre painting.

Marguerite Zorach

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Marguerite Zorach
A native of Fresno, California, Marguerite Zorach arrived in Paris in the fall of 1908, an experience that placed her in the first generation of American painters to be influenced by and to espouse the Fauves, artists whose work was based on color and rhythm.

She studied at the progressive school, La Palette, and shortly after met fellow student, William Zorach, a Lithuanian born lithographer from Cleveland.  They returned to the United States and married in 1912, and then worked together closely, especially as painters in oil. 

Many critics regard her early years as a painter, 1908-1920, as her most productive when she was experimenting with both Fauvism and Cubism and actively promoting the work of these painters in America.

She was not fully recognized for her role as a modern American artist until 1970, two years after she died, when some of her early canvases were rediscovered.  She had destroyed many of them, having changed her medium after the birth of her children to work in brilliantly colored wools rather than oils to express her love of color.  In her large-scale needleworks, she explored wide ranges of color and a variety of stitches.  In fact, her needlework skills were a key factor in the Marguerite and William and their two children having some stability during the Depression of the 1930s.  Because of an arrangement made by their New York dealer, Edith Halpert, Marguerite had a commission for a tapestry with Abby Rockefeller for the family home at Seal Harbor, Maine.  The Zorach family visited the Rockefellers, and Marguerite was then given a commission for a tapestry that earned her $18,000.00, "a sum that allowed the Zorachs to continue their work as artists and also provided for their two young children." (Pollock, 129)

She and her husband both exhibited in the 1913 Armory Show in New York, and she served as Director of the Society of Independent Artists and the first President of the New York Society of Women Artists.

Sources include:
Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein, American Women Artists
Lindsay Pollock, The Girl with the Gallery

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Marguerite Zorach
Born in Santa Rosa, CA on Sept. 25, 1887, Marguerite Thompson Zorach was raised in Fresno and showed artistic promise at age three.  A brilliant student, she was one of the first women admitted to Stanford University in 1908.  Shortly after her enrollment, she was lured to Paris by an aunt who was living there.  She studied art for four years in Paris and, while there, met her future husband William Zorach.

Returning to Fresno in 1912, she camped with her family in the Sierra Madre and did a series of paintings of that area.  The following year, she returned to NYC, married Zorach, and lived in Brooklyn for her remaining years.

A pioneer in modern art, she was one of the few young artists to introduce Fauvist and Cubist styles to the U.S. between 1910-20. The Zorachs made another trip to Yosemite in 1920.

She died in Brooklyn on June 27, 1968.

Paris Salon, 1911; Royer Gallery (LA), 1912; Armory Show, 1913; PPIE, 1915; AIC, 1920 (medal); Century of Progess (Chicago), 1933.

MM; Fresno Federal Bldg; NMAA; MOMA; Whitney Museum; Newark Museum; Brooklyn Museum; Speed Museum (Louisville).

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
American Art Annual 1915-33; Who's Who in American Art 1936-66; Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); American Women Artists (Rubenstein); Women Artists in America (Collins & Opitz); Artists of the American West (Samuels); NY Times, 6-29-1968 (obituary).

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries
Marguerite Thompson Zorach produced most of her innovative work from shortly after her first arrival in Paris in 1908 until 1920. This was a period of experimentation with style and technique, and Zorach successfully integrated color strategies then being developed in Paris into her own style. Upon her return to the United States, Thompson actively promoted Modernism with avant-garde writers and artists in New York and New England.

Zorach was born Marguerite Thompson on September 25, 1887 in Santa Rosa, California to a prominent family whose ancestry can be traced back to the early New England settlers. From her sixth year, she was filling notebooks with drawings. She had just enrolled at Stamford University in 1908 when her aunt, artist Adelaide Harris, invited her to come to Paris. En route to Europe, Zorach made a stop-over in Chicago where she witnessed her first Impressionist paintings. Her aunt introduced her to Gertrude Stein, a friend from San Francisco. Although Zorach did not frequent the Stein salon, she did meet Picasso on occasion and became a close friend of the sculptor Ossip Zadkine. Zorach was very receptive to Matisse's work and felt an immediate affinity with the French Fauves.

For a time Zorach studied at the conservative Ecole de la Grande Chaumiere and privately with Francis Zuburtin. She and fellow artist Jessie Dismorr traveled together throughout Europe visiting museums and galleries and painting. The summer of 1910 they visited Provence, where the brilliant panorama reminded her of California. The vivid hues evidenced in her paintings there are as much a tribute to nature as to her own liberated approach to color. Her work began to be seen publicly in this period, as she exhibited at the American Women's Art Association and at the Salon des Indépendants in 1910 and the Salon d'Automne in 1911.

Zorach and Dismorr attended the progressive art school La Palette in Paris in March 1911. Zorach studied with Scottish colourist John D. Fergusson, who managed La Palette, and with the more traditional Jacques Emile Blanche. Fergusson, who was one of the founders of the London periodical Rhythm, published many of Zorach's drawings. It was at La Palette that she met her future husband William Zorach, a lithographer from Cleveland.

After Zorach left La Palette in the fall of 1911, she and her aunt departed on a voyage through the Middle East. The landscapes from her journey are rich with saturated color and simplified, abstracted forms.

Zorach arrived in San Francisco in April of 1912 and spent the summer camping in the Sierra Mountains. Aware of the difficulties of climbing with paint box and canvas, she made many pen and ink drawings, yet strong paintings also resulted from the summer. The Royar Galleries in Los Angeles sponsored her first one-person show in 1912, which attracted a large crowd. The show was remounted at the Parlor Club in Fresno, California.

Marguerite and William Zorach were married on December 24, 1912 in New York City. Urban life depressed Marguerite, and as a compromise they agreed to spend the summers surrounded by nature. Most of her oils stem from those summer retreats.

Zorach displayed a new angularity and flatness of form derived from Cubism to which she was exposed at the Armory Show of 1913 in which both she and her husband exhibited. She had a one-person show at the Daniel Gallery in New York in 1915. She was also selected out of seventeen artists to exhibit at the Forum exhibition at the Anderson Galleries in 1916, an attempt to bring the best modern paintings to the American public. Her good friend Abraham Walkowitz introduced her to Hamilton Easter Field, a critic and patron of the arts and founder of Arts magazine. Field lent her and her husband his farm in Randolph, New Hampshire for the summer of 1915 where they painted zealously.

The summer of 1916 was spent in Provincetown, Massachusetts with artist friends Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth and Walkowitz. The Provincetown canvases reflect an involvement with Cubism. Both Zorachs participated in the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in 1917 at the Grand Central Palace.

From 1920 onwards Marguerite devoted a substantial amount of her energies to designing and making embroideries, though she never completely abandoned painting. Her embroideries drew high praise from art critics and collectors alike. Though she had shown her tapestries at Charles Daniel's Gallery in 1918, it was a joint exhibition with her husband. She had her first one-person show of her needlework, "Embroidered Tapestries by Marguerite Zorach" at Montross Gallery in New York in 1923. Although Marguerite focused more on her tapestries and embroideries in the 1920s and 1930s she returned to oil paintings in the 1930s. The works from these later years of her life continue the directions she had been exploring in the teens and 20s, mainly Cubism. Marguerite Zorach continued to paint and exhibit until her death on June 27, 1968.

© Copyright 2008 Hollis Taggart Galleries

Biography from Levis Fine Art
Marguerite Zorach is credited as being one of the few American modernist painters who introduced the European artistic theories and styles of Fauvism and Cubism, to the United States during the early 1900's.

After beginning her academic training at Stanford University, Zorach moved to Paris in 1908 to further her artistic training and career.  She was immediately impressed by the work of the non-academic painters including Matisse and Derain and soon enrolled at La Palette, an avant-garde art school where she studied under the Scottish Fauvist John Duncan Fergusson.  During this time period Zorach exhibited in the Salon d'Autumne and at the Societe des Artistes Independents and her works express heavy influences of both the color and expressive nature of the French Fauvists and German Expressionists, with her use of bold unconventional color and startling distortions of shape and line.

After returning to the United States, Zorach returned to California in 1912 and executed a number of powerful paintings in the Sierra Mountains and began to produce pen-and-ink drawings that reflected her observation of Oriental art.  Her first solo exhibition was held in 1912 in Los Angeles, concurrent with her marriage to sculptor/painter William Zorach, whom she had met while in Paris.  Both Marguerite and William exhibited at the Armory Show in 1913, a landmark event in the history of American art.

Influenced by Max Weber at the beginning of 1915, Marguerite lightly experimented with the techniques and theories associated with cubism.  By 1920 she had begun to concentrate on large, intricate tapestries, generally featuring Arcadian scenes executed in brilliantly-colored silk and wool.  She regarded these "sticheries" as her primary artistic work, although she returned to oils after 1930.  Marguerite also collaborated with her husband in many of his sculptural commissions, providing original designs and sketches for his final works.

In the 1940's, she continued to do a small number of oil paintings and water colors. One of those works, Night Still Life, is one of her strongest and most colorful still life paintings and has been considered a favorite of the Zorach family, according to Peggy Zorach.

Marguerite also served as Director of the Society of Independent Artists and the first President of the New York Society of Women Artists.  Her paintings have been exhibited extensively since 1908 including such venues as: Salon d'Automne, Society of Independent Artists, the Pan Pacific Exposition of 1915, Forum Exchange, NY, 1916(the only woman to exhibit), Corcoran Gallery biennials, 1930-45, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1932, 1940, 1951-52, Bates College, 1964, Worcester Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts and numerous other museums, shows and exhibitions.

© 2008 Levis Fine Art, Inc.

Biography from Cornish Colony Museum
Born in Fresno, CA.  Studied in Paris and was a good friend of Gertrude Stein. Met her husband William Zorach in Paris.  She was an accomplished painter and craftswoman who specialized in textile design.  She was a member of the New York Society of Women Artists, and also the American Society of Painters, Sculptors and Gravers.  She received awards in the Pan.-Pacific Exposition in 1915; and a gold medal in the Art Institute of Chicago Exposition in 1920.  Marguerite and William were considered to be in the vanguard of modern art. Among their friends the Zorachs counted many of the Modern Art giants greats like Picasso, Matisse, Léger and Braque.

Both Marguerite and William were intrigued with German Expressionism and Cubism.
They were the first and perhaps the only modern artists of the Cornish Colony.

Marguerite's work is in the collection of twenty-two museums: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Yale University Art Gallery, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Allen R. Hite Art Institute, the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Portland Museum of Art, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, the Newark Museum the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio, La Salle University Art Museum, the Jack B. Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, TX, the Tacoma Art Museum, and our own Cornish Colony Museum.

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About  Marguerite Zorach

Born:  1887 - Santa Rosa, California
Died:   1968 - Brooklyn, New York
Known for:  modernist landscape, figure and genre painting