William & Marguerite Zorach
Pioneering American Modernists
For over 50 years, William and Marguerite Zorach were an integral part of the Twentieth Century American art scene. From the time they met in Paris in 1911 to well into the 1960s, they were considered inseparable, referred to collectively by friends and patrons alike as "the Zorachs".
Those early years spent in Paris inspired their mutual creative vision. They began as Fauvists, then experimented with Cubism. Their combined talent paved the way for an upheaval in New York City's art world that came to be known as Modernism. Their works included watercolors, oils, embroideries and hooked rugs, murals, set design, bronze sculpture as well as direct carving in wood and stone.
Both William and Marguerite exhibited at the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art which has now become known as the celebrated 1913 Armory Show. Quoting from x-roads, U of Virginia: "Zorach's choice of figure study may have elicited the criticism she received, since the perceived assault on the human form was much more egregious to critics of the Armory Show than the strident colors of fauve landscapes. This in part explains the attacks on Matisse's work as well. Charles Camoin, Georges Braque, Emile Charmy, and Alfred Maurer, another American fauvist, were represented at the Armory Show by fauvist landscapes, but they received little or no attention in the press
"An article in the New York American emphasizes the non-organic appearance of Zorach’s painting: 'In the 'study,' by Marguerite Zorach, you see at once that the lady is feeling very, very bad. She is portraying her emotions after a day’s shopping. The pale yellow eyes and the purple lips of her subject indicate that the digestive organs are not functioning properly. I would advise salicylate of quininine in small doses.' (qtd. in Tarbell, Zorach 69)."
Intrigued with sculpting as well as painting, William Zorach became one of the first artists to turn to direct carving as well as one of its foremost proponents. Direct carvers kept preliminary studies to a minimum and worked with a wider variety of wood and stone materials. Often they let the colors, shapes, and textures of these materials inspire and guide their work. They simplified their sculpture, emphasizing form over detail. Their inspiration came from new sources such as archaic Greek sculpture, "primitive" art, and folk art. At the time their innovations works felt modern, refreshing, expressive, and evocative.
As a guest of an aunt who lived in Paris, Marguerite was exposed to the artwork exhibited at the 1908 Salon d'Automne; paintings by Matisse,Vlaminck, Anne Estelle Rice, John Duncan Fergusson, to name just a few. She was enthralled with their use of color and minimalist form, a discipline which she continued to explore throughout her career. Marguerite not only expressed her talents through her embroideries and paintings but applied them to the decor of their living quarters as well as the clothing she designed for herself and her family, right down to the stockings that her daughter, Dahlov wore to grade school. No wonder it has been said that the Zorachs truly lived life as an art form.
Throughout their careers both Marguerite and William adhered to their own artistic vision. They refused to allow the trends of the day influence their styles. They saw each and every work as a unique creation that would forever stand unmistakably as a "Zorach". Truly, theirs is both a love story as well as a success story.
Their works have been collected by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Delaware Art Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Farnsworth Art Museum, Portland Museum of Art, The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, The Smithsonian, The Philips Collection, and educational institutions such as Colby College, The University of Vermont, Williams College, Bowdoin College, and the University of Virginia.
For the complete listings, see either William or Marguerite's page under Permanent Collections.
In addition William has works associated with many public buildings, among them: Radio City Music Hall, New York City Municipal Court, the U.S. Post Office in Washington D.C. as well as Farleigh Dickinson University. He was honored by the Clinton White House as one of America’s great artists.
Watch this space...
Want to know more about the Zorachs?
Origins of Marguerite and William Zorach's
Creative Partnership, 1911-1922 by Jessica
Nicoll : Former Curator, Portland Museum of Art; now Director of the Smith College Museum of Art
Have a question regarding William and Marguerite Zorach; a piece of art that you would like to discuss; or would just
plain like to reminisce? While it's up to our gallery to authenticate any works that you may possess, you are welcome to discuss them with our Executive Committee below. All of us are William and Marguerite's grandchildren. We would be delighted to help you!
Recent exhibits of William & Marguerite Zorach's work Zorach works for sale at the Gerald Peters Gallery
For a small overview see William & Marguerite Zorach's gallery
photo courtesy of Larry Wilson
Spirit of the Sea, William Zorach
Visit the Friends of the Zorach Fountain at: