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Sketching] and Paint[ing] in Ecstasy--William and Marguerite Zorach in Yosemite Valley, Summer 1920.

In many ways, the summer that the American modernists William (1887-1966) and Marguerite (1887-1968) Zorach spent in Yosemite Valley in 1920 proved to be a crucial period in terms of both the works they created there and the long-term artistic development of the artists themselves. Chronologically, this trip occurred before William had established himself as the sculptor who would help to revive the method of direct carving in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century and before Marguerite distinguished herself for her embroidered tapestries. (1) Marguerite was a native of Fresno, and this trip marked her first return to the Golden State after leaving to marry William on Christmas Eve 1912 in New York City and settling into their apartment in Greenwich Village. The voyage also provided the opportunity for Marguerite's parents to meet their two grandchildren,--Tessim and Dahlov, born in 1915 and 1917 respectively. The Zorachs arrived in Fresno in April 1920, and while Marguerite stayed with her parents in her childhood home recuperating from a severe bout of influenza that had hospitalized her earlier in the year, William, on her urging, set out for Yosemite by himself, where he set up camp and waited for the rest of his family to join him, which they did towards the end of the summer. While on his own, William hiked, sketched, painted, and wrote poetry in a state of ecstasy, as he indicated in his autobiography, Art is My Life, published posthumously in 1967:

   I spent five months in
   the Yosemite Valley
   sketching, drawing,
   painting, and doing
   watercolors. Every
   now and then in life we
   have an experience that
   moves us so deeply, that
   holds us with such sheer,
   transcendent beauty, that
   it takes us completely out
   of this world. It is this
   feeling that only an artist
   in his art can convey. It
   is a journey into infinity.
   This happened to me
   twice in my life. The first
   time came after seven
   days on the endless expanse of the Atlantic Ocean
   with nothing in sight but the constellations in the
   heavens, the sun's rising on the horizon in the
   early dawn, and the evening sunset's magnificent
   splendor ...

   The other vision was Yosemite. Never had I
   dreamed of such awe-inspiring magnitude, such
   beauty and grandeur of forms. The tremendous
   waterfalls dropping from the blue sky thousands
   of feet into the valley, the domes and mountains
   of granite, the silent lakes, the rushing streams,
   the giant sequoias with their delicate fern-like
   needles and tremendous slabs of bark. I climbed
   all over the mountains, with a sixty-pound pack
   of sketching materials and blankets on my back,
   and slept out under the stars, naively undressing at
   night and putting on my pajamas and freezing until
   I had to build a fire. The loneliness and vastness
   were overpowering. This was the [g]arden of Eden,
   God's paradise. I sketched and painted in ecstasy. (2)

William, in his first visit to the west, responded to this new country with the joy and excitement of an explorer, as seen in the inscription on the back of an anonymous photograph showing William under a sequoia (Fig. 1) which reads: "I walked 40 miles with a 60 pound pack of sketching materials, in the big sequoias--so as to get a feeling of the country as those men who first got there." (3) In a letter dated June 17, 1920 to Dr. John Weichsel, founder of the People's Art Guild, William expanded on the hiking he did that summer,

   The valley is simply marvelous--barring the
   Tourists ... I've been doing so good hiking, climbing
   mountains I'm sure I could climb the Woolworth
   Building ... without an effort. I've walked 40 miles
   over mountains and don't think anything of it
   anymore--sleep out nights freezing ... I am getting
   hard as nails. (4)

The more than one hundred drawings and watercolors that William completed during this period are among his most compelling in their freshness and directness. Many convey his perceptions of the majesty and grandeur of the land, epitomized by his renderings of certain iconic landmarks, such as Yosemite Falls and the face of Half Dome, the latter subject William captured in Half Dome, Yosemite (Fig. 2). (5) In addition to its striking looseness and painterly quality, this work is notable for its bold use of Fauve-inspired purples and violets in the background mountain range. William was exposed to Fauvism as early as 1911 during his studies in Paris (he and Marguerite met there while they were taking classes at the Academie de la Palette. It should be noted that of the two, Marguerite was more experimental, and encouraged him to explore other avant-garde styles, such as Fauvism, which she had already embraced).

The majority of William's drawings captured the ebb, flow, and cascading rhythms of Yosemite Falls, North America's tallest waterfall, extending some 2,425 feet and divided into three distinct sections--the Upper Falls, which run into a series of plunges known as the Cascades, and the Lower Falls. Karen E. Haas, Curator of the Lane Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has written of these studies, "For [William] Zorach ... the challenge was capturing the power and beauty of this famous view, as seen in the eyes of a modernist painter." (6) Most of these works were rather limited in terms of their scope, focusing only on portions of the stages of the falls in a delicate, lyrical, rhythmic line. In one instance, Yosemite--Grasses on Cliff (Fig. 3), William linked the Upper Falls to the Lower Falls with his typical graceful slope and in the process used chiaroscuro modeling to describe the organic forms. Donelson F. Hoopes, then curator at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, has written that "the drawings made at this time are remarkable for their economy, as if Zorach were searching for the ideal line which would perfectly describe the relentless energy of falling water and strength of rock and mountain." (7) The economy of line and form in William's drawings point to his Modernist underpinnings--what typifies his California works is his drive towards greater simplification as he abstracted his source. Like Paul Cezanne and so many other Modern artists who strove to reduce nature to basic geometric components, William too simplified his natural subjects yet sought to preserve their organic aspects. In his autobiography William wrote that he considered Cezanne [and Vincent van Gogh] to be "more like scientists exploring the development of new aspects of their surroundings." (8) It was Paul Gauguin who made a greater impression on him, for, as William wrote, he "took me into a mysterious inner world of the spirit." (9) This spiritual component added an extra dimension to William's artistic outlook, one that reflected his knowledge of Romantic era Transcendentalism in particular his connection between spirituality and "nature," meaning the wilderness, and notions of the sublime, evident in the awe expressed in his drawings and writings about the California landscape. The importance of mysticism and nature to William's artistic purposes are evident from the brief artist statement that he provided for the catalog of the "Forum Exhibition of Modern Painters" in 1916:

   It is the inner spirit of things that I seek to
   express, the essential relation of forms and color
   to universal things. Each form and color has a
   spiritual significance to me, and I try to combine
   these forms and colors within my space to express
   that inner feeling which something in nature or life
   has given me. (10)

Ultimately, it appears that in his early works, William did not slavishly follow the dictates of any single movement, be it Cubism, Fauvism or Futurism, whose styles he was fully aware of and had experimented with. In his California works, his affinities are especially marked by various Expressive veins. But even more so, they are affected by the notion of "essential form" that permeated the entire Modernist era, the interest in describing subject matter in the sparest, most direct forms possible. A watercolor of Bridalveil Fall offers an illustration of this approach (Fig. 4). William accentuates the distinct concave lip of the falls and the craggy features of its rock face that generate a sense of elevation, towering over the green forms of the earth below. The kinetic and energetic articulation of the precipice suggests the kinesis of water flowing over a cliff. The geological formation was so named because the Ahwahneechee Native Americans believed, among other things, that inhaling the mists of Bridalveil would lead to greater success in marriage. William responded to the possibilities of color--the deep blue pool at the bottom surrounded by a rich range of greens in the trees to the azure sky above. Of his watercolors, Zorach has said, "there are things one does for the pure love of form and color, in the easy abandonment to the moods and the fancies of the moment. These are my watercolors." (11)

William was not always alone during this time, as he befriended Ansel Adams, with whom he nearly "lost his life," as he put it, in a hiking mishap. (12) At the time Adams was nineteen and was in charge of the valley library. (13) He invited William to climb Grizzly Peak, which William described as "a cone-shaped mass of rock rising about three thousand feet above the valley floor." (14) The climb to the summit took them nearly the entire day, William with a backpack containing his drawing supplies, and Adams with a camera. William tried to draw out each water break on the way up so that he could rattle off a sketch. A drawing by William at the Library of Congress shows the pair climbing (Fig. 5). (15) William remarked that, from the top, "[T] he place where we stood was so small and the sheer drop of granite around us so perpendicular that we felt like two specks on the head of a pin." (16) The panorama that unfolded before the artists was remarkable, as the entire Sierra Nevada range opened up to them. (17) On the fateful climb with Adams he created some works at the summit, but soon realized that it was getting late and that it would take some time for them to descend. Adams apparently proposed that in order to save time, they should go straight down the sheer cliff (instead of descending by the way they had come, which might have taken all night) and William followed. The results were frightening--the two rappelled and in the process, William lost his supplies and day's work. Eventually Adams, a more experienced mountaineer, discarded his rope and found his way down through the crevices, while William frantically grappled for anything he could get his hands on, eventually landing on and maneuvering down the shale sides. William confessed that,

   [W]e were both scared to death but we got to the
   valley floor in nothing flat. There wasn't a stitch of
   clothes on either one of us. Our shoes were gone;
   we were smeared black and red with blood; we
   were torn and bruised and exhausted. I dropped in
   the camp and couldn't walk for a week. It was a
   terrible and terrifying experience. It was a miracle
   either of us survived. (18)

The Library of Congress drawing has a nervous, somewhat frenetic line (so unlike the more graceful, flowing line that typifies the majority of William's other Yosemite drawings), which could suggest that it meant to evoke the harrowing descent. In his autobiography, Adams acknowledged the danger, calling this experience a "close call." (19) Later that summer, William gave Adams a watercolor inscribed, "In memory of a wonderful summer in Yosemite." (20) The two kept in touch over the years, and in 1933, Adams offered an exhibition to William in the short-lived gallery he opened in San Francisco.

During his summer in Yosemite, William also met the mysterious Doris, a nineteen-year-old muse who frequently walked and rode on horseback among the hills, who he characterized as "the most magnificent goddess-like creature I have ever met." (21) Apparently she was one of "three or four ... very abstract romantic affairs" William had throughout his life and which he brought up openly in his memoir. (22) William wrote of seeing her at local dances in the valley and dreamed he could have the floor alone with her and "dance with her in the clouds that drifted over the moonlit mountains." (23) It is unclear from William's autobiography the exact nature and extent of their relationship, after indicating that she generally was accompanied by an escort, William adds that they met alone one morning and quietly sat above a waterfall before she walked back, an occasion that William recorded in an erotically suggestive drawing (Fig. 6). Shortly thereafter, he received word in a letter that Doris was to be married, which provoked a series of romantic poems that William sent to Doris. (24) In one piece, he compared himself to a "mad rushing stream/dashing.. [to her] long thin arms."

   You are a bright shining star in the heavens
   I am a mad rushing stream
   dashing wildly through the mountains
   some day to be
   a purple cloud in the sky
   and dance
   and float
   by your bright shining light
   drifting in your long thin arms. (25)

In another, he compares Doris' eyes to among things, "the sparkling waters on the/rocks/and the ripples of the water are the kisses/upon your breasts."

   Your face is the glowing light of the moon
   your eyes are the dark depths of he forest
   your soul is the mad rushing waters in the
   Your hair is a waterfall floating down the
   your eyes are the sparkling waters on the
   and the ripples of the water are the kisses
      upon your breasts. (26)

It's hard to tell Marguerite's reaction to all of this for she left behind no known commentary on the matter, however it's interesting to note that nearly a decade later, Doris and her husband visited William and Marguerite in New York City, but at the time, William reported that "the spell had lost its magic--the goddess was gone" (27) But in the poems to the younger Doris, It is not clear whether William was aware of the verses of the sixteenth century English poet Thomas Wyatt, or of any of the other writers over the years who have compared love to a waterfall, a torrential force of nature, but in his autobiography William recalls reciting the work of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and William Cullen Bryant to Marguerite when they met as art students in Paris in 1911 (at the Academie de la Palette) and began their courtship. (28) Later he was also able to remember a quotation by John Muir that Marguerite had then posted on her studio wall:

   Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
   Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows
   into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness
   into you, and the storms their energy, while cares
   drop off like autumn leaves. (29)

Muir was a force in the American conservation movement, and was a leading figure in the establishment of Yosemite National Park, the first such park in the United States. The art historian Roberta Tarbell has suggested that Marguerite may have even met Muir before leaving Fresno to study art in Paris in 1908. (30) Central to Muir's philosophy was the rejuvenating power of nature, especially to modern day city dwellers, who he found "denatured" by their urban environment. (31) The Zorachs adhered to such an outlook themselves. Before their marriage in 1912, they agreed to "spend the summers in nature" at New England retreats both on the sea and in the country, a tradition that continued until their deaths in the late 1960s. (32) Not all of William's poems from the 1920s deal with themes of sensuous romance. Some are concerned, like his sketches, with the spiritual sustenance and guidance that nature can provide in one's life:

   Today I am a giant redwood
   Climbing toward the sun
   Tomorrow I am a wild ripple
   In a mountain torrent
   And then some day
   I will be a bright star in the heavens
   To guide your footsteps, beloved,
   In the dark valleys of your life. (33)

Once Marguerite's health was restored, her departure to join William in Yosemite was delayed again, by her father, who suffered a succession of heart attacks. William eventually grew exasperated and at one point wrote Marguerite "[C]ome or else." (34) Shortly after, she arrived at William's camp with the children. A week later Marguerite's father, William Palmer Thompson, "the 'dying father,"' as William called him, dropped in with Winifred Thompson, Marguerite's mother, both staying for the rest of the summer. (35) An avid fisherman, Marguerite's father was able to provide everyone with trout on a daily basis. Generally the grandparents took care of the kids, allowing William and Marguerite to explore the trails and sketch at will. William described their adventures on one occasion camping on the Merced River on rented burros. (36)

Of his time in California, William wrote that he was in the midst of what he believed to be "the garden of Eden, God's paradise," and the bliss of one enraptured by a virginal, pristine land is reflected in his work. (37) Marguerite also saw her time in Yosemite in similar Edenic terms one of her watercolor from this period was entitled Adam and Eve (Fig. 7). In her work, a peaceable kingdom of sorts, the male and female figures, as well as a few animals, are nearly lost in a sea of vegetation. That summer, the Zorachs also encountered a similar range of wildlife depicted by Marguerite. Along with coming in close contact with deer, William and Marguerite found the bears that roamed nightly just outside their tents quite alarming, especially given that they came in such close proximity to their young sleeping children. This was not the only time either of the Zorachs completed a Garden of Eden scene; William wrote in his autobiography of their apartment, 123 West 10th St. in Greenwich Village, "[W]e had it decorated and there was nothing like it in the country at the time. Our floors were red lead, our walls lemon yellow. We made our little hall into a [g]arden of Eden with a life-sized Adam and Eve and a red and white snake draped around the trunk of a decorative tree, with tropical foliage surrounding it all." (38)

Another watercolor by Marguerite, Nevada Fall, Yosemite Valley (Fig. 8), shows, in the left foreground alongside the roaring cascade, an episode from the family camping trip along the Merced River on rented burros. The naturally bent, angular shape of the gorge itself seemed ideally suited to Marguerite's Cubist sensibilities, as her forms are generally even more kaleidoscopically-rendered than those in Adam and Eve.

Artistically, it is safe to say that works by both of the Zorachs shared a prismatic, ecstatic quality. The similarities in these artists extended beyond their visual arts to encompass their overarching artistic outlooks and philosophies. It should be noted that Marguerite was also included in the Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters, (39) but her artist statement was not included in the catalog, and it has been argued by Tarbell among others that William's was a joint statement written partially by Marguerite herself (or certainly strongly influenced by her) as a summary of their joint goals as artists. (40)

After their return to New York City in the fall of 1920, memories of California provided the source for a number of William's works. In October of 1920, William worked from his sketches and watercolors from that summer to complete a series of oil paintings that included Yosemite Falls (Fig. 9) which, with its ebbs and flows--and distant vantage point--summarizes the three major sections of Yosemite Falls. Whereas in his earlier drawing, Yosemite--Grasses on a Cliff, the progression of the falls was spread out more horizontally across the composition, here the emphasis is vertical. The focus is on the surging bursts of energy in the waterfall itself, with its series of inverted triangular forms. Earlier that summer William reflected on waterfalls on a more metaphysical level, as seen in this undated and previously unpublished poem:

   The sea is born on mountain tops
   the falls are the mothers of oceans
   the sun is their father
   he creates life every spring
   by kissing the snow clad mountains--
   the falls are the mothers of oceans
   the bottom of the falls is the mother's womb
   water is born
   it rushes madly down the mountains
   singing, smiling, mingling
   rushes wildly down the valleys
   over the rocks, flowing towards the falls
   there the waters mingle, there the sea is born
   born by madly rushing streams
   mad in the embrace of sun and the rocks
   life flows on through mountain streams
   where seas are young
   through rivers to manhood
   resting in lakes
   flowing on until the waters reach the sea-they
   die and are born again on mountain tops. (41)

William's time in Yosemite may have also played a crucial role in determining which medium he would eventually concentrate on. His oils from the fall of 1920 were almost the last such paintings he ever completed. In the following two years, his artistic energies would be taken up entirely by sculpture. Perhaps it may have been that the expressive geological grandeur of Yosemite inspired a shift in his artistic imagination from two into three dimensions. While camping, William used a penknife to complete an eight inch tall Sprucewood carving of his daughter, Dahlov, and the following year he carved a larger (twenty-four inch tall) rendering of his son, Tessim, from Maplewood that he brought back from California, two of his earliest forays into three-dimensional work. (42) It should be noted that in his autobiography William mentions the power and influence that ancient art had on him in his turn toward sculpture:

   I was interested in primitive art. When we first
   came to New York I had seen the sculpture of
   the Aztecs and Mayans and the carving of the
   Eskimos in the Museum of Natural History. I
   saw De Zayas' exhibition of African sculpture
   [at his Modern Gallery in 1915]. It had an
   extraordinary magic and spiritual quality that was
   unequaled ... Charles Sheeler made a marvelous
   set of photographs from this sculpture. I could at
   least have them through Sheeler's book. It cost fifty
   dollars. I could barely scrape the money together
   but I bought the book. (43)

It is possible that William overlooked or perhaps did not recognize the impact that his California trip had in shaping his ultimate artistic calling, but I am not alone in the suspicion that his summer in Eden subtly and permanently influenced his artistic sensibilities. Max Weber, the artist and close friend of the Zorachs, wrote in a letter to William of the excitement that he imagined William must have felt while in Yosemite:

   I know that you as artist and lover of nature could
   not have gone to a more inspiring and enervating
   [sic] place on this side of the sea. I can well
   imagine the thrills you have! Such phenomena is
   enough to shake one's very soul and while one
   is made submissive and in the presence of God's
   very most wonderful work, the very experience
   the very consciousness of one's own insignificance
   and helplessness spurs him on to greater ... to
   be more; more--I'm sure you will retain lasting
   memories of those infinite scales and proportions
   of nature's paradoxes of its caprices, its secrets,
   of its infinite degrees, its endless endless invention
   and what sculpture! I presume you have seen
   shapes and forms to make your spirits dazzle-crazed
   monumentally by the patterns--mysteries
   of color, what fingers, what hands has sculpted
   nature! What design has not nature that we can
   ever hope of reading? Nature--however old, is
   always modern--a century to her is a second. And
   see what "cubist" pictures and sculptures she has,
   and has had for ages. Where are we little ants?
   What voices you must hear in those vast hollows,
   with the madly cutting, carving rivers down below.
   What fright and awe you must have read out of
   those black fissures in the rocky sides. (44)

Perhaps the imagined crevasses and rock formations envisioned by Weber (as "'cubist' pictures and sculptures," no less) ultimately had a greater impact on William than he himself understood. It is tempting to speculate that the rugged natural beauty of Yosemite's geological sculptures even influenced William's choice of carving method, direct carving--a method that reveals his appreciation of the raw aesthetic possibilities of passages of stone and wood left uncarved and unpolished, as he often did, to draw attention to textures in the material itself. Tarbell has observed that "[T]he hard, resistant stone forces the artist away from representation and toward abstraction." (45) Perhaps, put another way, it forces the artist away from illusion of nature toward the natural, as William encountered it in the raw beauty of Yosemite.

As for Marguerite, the trip acted as a springboard for her to revisit her childhood in Fresno in such works as Memories of My California Childhood, 1921 (Fig. 10), an oil painting in which it is possible to imagine Marguerite recalling the more care-free days she enjoyed playing outside in her garden with her mother and younger sister, Edith. In a fractured, Cubist space, an older figure (Marguerite's mother or caretaker) reads to two younger figures (in all probability Marguerite and her sister Edith), both of whom are directing their attention upwards, to the organic form in the tree (one of the figures even seems to reach towards it). Marguerite stressed the role and importance that memory played in her work and, in the process, compressed the element of time. Marguerite was evidently thinking back upon her formative years and education. In addition to their education in the public school system, both Marguerite and her sister Edith were tutored at home in French, German, and piano. Coming from a well-to-do background (her father, William P. Thompson, a Quaker from Pennsylvania, was a prominent and resilient lawyer in Napa Valley and her mother, Winifred Harris, hailed from Tauton, Massachusetts, Marguerite had always had a great affinity for the arts, filling notebooks with sketches as early as age six. Her fourth grade teachers gave her chromolithographs of fruits, flowers, and landscapes, from which precocious Marguerite painted copies. At Fresno High School, she not only reproduced sketches of the Gibson girls for her friends, she also worked in her freehand drawing classes from plaster casts of the Discobolus and the Winged Victory. (46) After graduating in 1906, Marguerite taught at Crescent School in Wheatville, a small rural school in Fresno County. In the fall of 1908, she enrolled at Stanford University. However her semester was cut short when she accepted an offer from her aunt, Harriet Adelaide Harris, who was then living in Paris and whom she affectionately called "Aunt Harris" or "Aunt A," to further her artistic studies in the City of Lights, an offer Marguerite eagerly accepted; altogether Marguerite traveled and studied abroad from 1908-1912. (47)

Marguerite's relationship with her parents would later be strained after they objected not only to her intention to become an artist but to marry one as well. (48) The fact that William was also a Jew and younger than Marguerite further exacerbated tensions with her parents. When they married, William changed his last name from "Finkelstein" to "Zorach," and his year of birth to 1887 so that Thompson, who was born in 1887, would not appear older than himself. (49) Even after her marriage to William, it appears that Marguerite had a difficult time in reconciling her parents to her relationship with William. This is evident in an unpublished poem, "To My Mother," written in Fresno during the summer of 1920:

   The insistence of your talk
   beating about me
   wearing me down
   The incessant rain
   bit by bit
   wearing the granite
   my brain resounds with the iteration of
      your words
   forcing apart the rock
   eating around hard surfaces
   finding invisible fragilities
   fingering them into glaring crevices
   until the image of myself is worn and
      corroded into wild fantasies
   and the echo of my soul's laughter rolls and
      mocks in gaping caverns.
   I would burst each particle asunder and
      rejoice in the destruction that would
      end your torture
   I would become a river and laugh as your
   beating drops swelled my strength--
   But I am granite
   and helpless as the hills before your never
      wearying voice. (50)

Over the years, Marguerite would return to compositions relating to her formative upbringing in California and, in the process, revisiting family identities. (51)

Historically, the Zorachs were among the first artists to approach the subject of Yosemite Valley in an early-twentieth-century-modernist mindset that anticipated figures such as Chiura Obata, Henry Sugimoto, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Charles Sheeler. (52) More than that, however, their summer in Yosemite would have profound effects on the rest of their careers and lives. For Marguerite, it was a homecoming that reignited in her interest the themes of family and identity. For William, the summer in Yosemite marked nothing less than the beginning of his consequential shift to three-dimensional work. Yosemite is the caesura between the artist that he was and the sculptor he would become. In William's words in a speech to the Art Students League in 1931, one hears the sound still ring a decade later of his artistic and spiritual revelations that summer in Yosemite: "Modern Art to my generation was a spiritual awakening, a freeing of Art from the idea of copying Nature. We entered into a whole new world of form and color that opened up before us." (53)


(1.) For a selected bibliography on the works of the Zorachs, see (in alphabetical order): John I. H. Baur, William Zorach (New York: Whitney Museum of Art, 1959); Efram L. Burk, Clever Fresno Girl, The Travel Writings of Marguerite Thompson Zorach 1908-1915 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2009); Hazel Clark, "The Textile Art of Marguerite Zorach," Woman's Art Journal (Spring/Summer 1995): 18-25; Cynthia Fowler, "Early American Modernism and Craft Production: The Embroideries of Marguerite Zorach," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Delaware, 2002; Marilyn Friedman Hoffman, Marguerite and William Zorach, The Cubist Years, 1915-1918 (Manchester, N.H.: Currier Gallery of Art, 1987); Donelson F. Hoopes, William Zorach, Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings, 1911-1922 (New York: Brooklyn Museum of Art, 1968); Katherine Kaplan, essay for exhibition publication, Marguerite Zorach, Cubism and Beyond (N.Y.: Kraushaar Galleries, 1991); Vivian Patterson, Companions in Art: William and Marguerite Zorach (Williamstown, MA: Williams College Museum of Art, 1992; Roberta K. Tarbell and Jessica Nicoll, Marguerite and William Zorach: Harmonies and Contrasts (Portland, Maine: Portland Museum of Art, 2001); Tarbell, William and Marguerite Zorach: The Maine Years (Rockland, ME: William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum, 1979); Tarbell, "Catalogue Raisonne of William Zorach's Carved Sculpture," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Delaware, 1976; Tarbell, Marguerite Zorach: The Early Years, 1908-1920 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1973); Paul S. Wingert, The Sculpture of William Zorach (New York: Pitman Publishing Corporation, 1938).

(2.) William Zorach, Art is My Life: The Autobiography of William Zorach (Cleveland, Ohio: The World Publishing Company, 1967), 60.

(3.) This photograph is in the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, under Zorach Papers. It should be noted that another anonymous photo in the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress, Zorach Papers, shows William standing proudly under a tree in the foreground, with his arms bent and hands resting on his waist, and Half Dome off in the distance, its distinctive face partially obscured by the foreground tree, a similar vantage point (without William, of course, as in Fig. 2).

(4.) Letter from William Zorach to Dr. John Weichsel, June 17, 1920, the Weichsel Papers in the Archive of American Art, microfilm Hie, New York. Dr. Weichsel was the founder of the People's Art Guild. William designed the 1916 membership card for the organization. It was through Dr. Weichsel that the Zorachs were invited to participate in the Forum Exhibition in 1916.

(5.) One at least one occasion Marguerite also completed a watercolor of Half Dome (which is currently in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum).

(6.) Karen E. Haas, from a draft on a section entitled: "Ansel Adams and the Zorachs in Yosemite," that did not find its way into the exhibition catalog authored by Haas and Rebecca A. Senf, Ansel Adams in the Lane Collection (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts Publications, 2005), in coordination with the exhibition "Ansel Adams," at the Museum of Fine Arts (August 21-January 4, 2006). Haas was kind enough to give me a copy of her draft when I visited the museum in the spring of 2008 to see their collection of works by the Zorachs, particularly their impressive number of watercolors and drawings completed by the couple while they were in Yosemite in 1920.

(7.) Hoopes, William Zorach, Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings, 1911-1922, 14.

(8.) Zorach, Art is My Life, 65.

(9.) Ibid.

(10.) William Zorach, artist statement in the catalogue of the Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters (New York: Anderson Galleries, 1916), n.p.

(11.) Zorach, Art is My Life, 193.

(12.) Ibid., 62.

(13.) Although at the time William first met him, Adams was not known as a photographer, I wonder if it was not possible that Adams took one, or both, of the aforementioned photos of William at the Library of Congress.

(14.) Zorach, Art is My Life, 62.

(15.) On the verso of one of the drawings is written, "By William Zorach per Tessim Zorach," an inscription that refers to Tessim Zorach's practice, during the 1980s, meant to verify the authorship of his father to un an unsigned or dated sketch.

(16.) Zorach, Art is My Life, 62.

(17.) William had reached similar heights before--on one occasion he completed a sketch from Glacier Point, which included the distinguishing profile of the Half Dome in the distance--a composition, it should be noted, that is very similar to Half Dome and Clouds, a photograph Adams would later take from nearly the same exact spot.

(18.) Zorach, Art is My Life, 62.

(19.) Ansel Adams with Mary Street Alinder, Ansel Adams: An Autobiography (London: Thames and Hudson, Ltd., 1985), 228.

(20.) Ibid., 50-51.

(21.) Zorach, Art is My Life, 61.

(22.) Ibid.

(23.) Ibid.

(24.) Ibid.

(25.) Carl N. Schmalz, Jr., ed., Young Poems of William and Marguerite Zorach, typeset for an unpublished book prepared in 1966, p. 63; the book can be found on reels 121-381, roll 4960, Zorach Family Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C..

(26.) Ibid., 64.

(27.) Zorach, Art is My Life, 61. Later in life, Doris became ravaged by illness and ultimately bed-ridden, however she would occasionally call William at his home until as late as 1966, the year he died.

(28.) It was Bryant's "Thanatopsis" that William cited in hs autobiography (24).

(29.) (In one of the letters Marguerite wrote to William while she was staying with her family in Fresno during the summer of 1912 she tried to recall the quotation; William provided it in one of his letters to her, see: Tarbell, Marguerite Zorach: The Early Years, 1908-1920, pp. 31-32 and footnote 42), Muir, "Impression Leaflet # 19" (San Francisco and New York: Paul Edler and Co., 1905).

(30.) See: Roberta Tarbell, Marguerite Zorach: The Early Years, footnote 41.

(31.) This quotation comes from John Muir, John Muir: The Eight Wilderness Discovery Books (London: Diadem Books, 1992).

(32.) Letter, William Finkelstein [Zorach] (Cleveland) to Marguerite Thompson (Fresno), May 25, 1912. The destinations for their summer retreats included: Chappaqua, New York (1913 and 1914); Randolph, New Hampshire (1915, for most of the summer); Echo Farm in Plainfield, New Hampshire (1917 and 1918); Provincetown, Massachusetts (briefly in 1915, 1916, 1921, and 1922); Stonington, Maine (1919); and Robinhood, Maine, where they purchased a small house in 1923. These were only summer excursions for the Zorachs, for they would always return to their apartment in Greenwich Village for the rest of the year (generally September to June, but before the Zorachs' two children went to school, this period was often November to April). Before settling on New York City as they place they would make their home, they considered sharing a "Post-Impressionistic studio in San Francisco," or finding a place "among mountains in Yosemite Valley, close to nature and away from people." (Quotes from the following letters, William Finkelstein (Cleveland) to Marguerite Thompson (India), January 1, 1912; William Finkelstein (Paris) to Marguerite Thompson (India), December 2, 1911). They ultimately chose Manhattan, for as William reasoned, "where there is commerce & [sic] wealth there are also people interested in art ... New York seems the best place." (Quote from another letter, William Finkelstein (Paris) to Marguerite Thompson (at sea), n.d. [1911]).

(33.) Schmalz, Jr., 66.

(34.) Zorach, Art is My Life, 60.

(35.) Ibid.

(36.) Ibid., 61.

(37.) Ibid., 60.

(38.) Zorach, Art is My Life, 37.

(39.) Fowler has pointed out in her dissertation, that Thompson was the only woman who participated in the exhibit and elaborated with:

      In addition, the title page listed Marguerite [Thompson]
   and William as "William and Marguerite Zorach," as if
   they together were a single artist, and on page 5 of the
   catalogue, they are counted as such. Reference was made to
   "16" artists in the show, but if the Zorachs were counted
   separately, the number would have been (and was) 17. (2)

The reason for the slighting of Thompson in the catalogue remains unclear, but perhaps it has to do with the broader issue of gender bias that prevailed against women artists at the time.

(40.) Tarbell points out, among other things, that Thompson used the passage the "inner spirit of things" in her interview with Antony Anderson in the Los Angeles Times "Art and Artists (Marguerite Thompson, Futurist)" dated October 20, 1912, after her return to the States in 1912. In addition to the similarities in quotations from Marguerite in Antony Anderson's article, Tarbell sees William's statement for the catalog to the Forum Exhibition is reminiscent to language used by Thompson in her poem, "The Moon Rose," published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse (September 1918). For more on this see, in particular, Tarbell, "Life and Work, Marguerite and William Zorach in New York and Maine, 1922-1968," essay in exhibition catalog, Marguerite and William Zorach: Harmonies and Contrasts, 88, footnote 2, and Hoffman, Marguerite and William Zorach, The Cubist Years, 1915-1918 39, footnote 21.

(41.) Schmalz, Jr., 71.

(42.) For more on this, see in particular, Gail Levin, footnote 54, p. 473, in her essay, "American art" in William Rubin, ed., "Primitivism" in 20th Century Art Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern (New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1984) and Tarbell's entry on William Zorach in William Innes Homer, ed., Avant-Garde Painting and Sculpture in America 1910-1925 (Wilmington: Delaware Art Museum, 1975), p. 158.

(43.) Zorach, Art is My Life, 66.

(44.) Letter, Max Weber to William Zorach, August 1, 1920, Zorach Family Papers, Library of Congress.

(45.) Tarbell's entry on William Zorach in William Innes Homer, ed., Avant-Garde Painting and Sculpture in America 1910-1925 (Wilmington: Delaware Art Museum, 1975), p. 158. Another impetus toward direct carving may have been William's early relief printmaking activity, for more on this see Burk, "The Prints of William Zorach," Print Quarterly, December 2002.

(46.) Marguerite graduated from Fresno High School in 1906 following a curriculum that included French, German, four years of Latin, English, history, algebra, physics, and geometry. In addition she took a university extension art history course focusing on the work of the Old Masters. See Tarbell, Early Years, 14.

(47.) For more on this crucial period, see, in particular, Tarbell, Early Years, and Burk, Clever Fresno Girl. Marguerite's time in Paris came to an end in the fall of 1911 when she accepted her aunt's invitation to return to California via a six-month trip through the Middle East and Asia--a voyage possibly orchestrated as a means of separating Marguerite from William, the thought being that a lengthy voyage would end their burgeoning affair, thus accounting for the exotic location sites for some their early correspondence.

(48.) According to Marguerite, her parents, who she characterized as valuing monetary "success in life above everything else," would have been pleased with nothing other than in having their daughter join the ranks of Fresno genteel society. (Quote from letter, Marguerite Thompson [Zorach] (Paris) to William Finkelstein [Zorach] (Avignon), July 20, 1911.

(49.) For Tarbell's treatment of this matter, see Marguerite Zorach: The Early Years, 1908-1920, footnote 14, p. 58. It should be noted that before settling on "Zorach" as their surname, William wrote in a letter William sent from Cleveland in January, 1912, to Thompson, who was then in India, that he was tired of "Finkelstein" and in keeping with the craze for novelty during the modernist era, he wanted "to be tagged with something more new." He urged Thompson to "look up some nice Hindu name" for them. This portion of the letter is reproduced in Nicoll, "To Be Modern, The Origins of Marguerite and William Zorach's Creative Partnership, 19111922," essay in exhibition catalog, Marguerite and William Zorach: Harmonies and Contrasts, 29.

(50.) This poem can be found in Carl Schmalz, Jr., typescript for the unpublished book, Young Poems by William and Marguerite Zorach, prepared in 1964, at the Archives of American Art, Zorach Family Papers; this section not paginated. This poem appeared in slightly different format in Fowler's dissertation, 142. Upon the passing of her mother in 1930, Marguerite traveled to California for the funeral and wrote the following lines in a letter to William, "I saw her dead, she looked very weird [sic] and very strange and very beautiful, I never saw such a strange and beautiful head. I feel as if life was so hard and so terrible for her--no one could help that but it is very pathetic." Letter from Marguerite Zorach to William Zorach, March 1930, Zorach Papers, AAA.

(51.) Marguerite would return to such personal familial subject matter as late as 1949 in her embroidered tapestry, Remembrance of Life in Fresno, California, and My Childhood There in c. 1900, National American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution. See Fowler's treatment of the subject in the chapter, "Marguerite Zorach's Self-Portraits: Autobiography and Memory," as part of her dissertation, Early American Modernism & Craft Production: The Embroideries of Marguerite Zorach.

(52.) For a broader discussion on such works, see exhibition catalog, Amy Scott, ed., Yosemite Art of American Icon (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006), 165-173.

(53.) William Zorach, "What is Sculpture Today?" typed lecture notes, 1931, Zorach Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, microfilm NY 59-3: 48.
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Author:Burk, Efram L.
Publication:Southeastern College Art Conference Review
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Date:Jan 1, 2014
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