National Museum of Women in the Arts
Marguerite Thompson Zorach
September 25 1887 - June 27 1968
Photograph of Marguerite Thompson Zorach, ca. 1960, by Geoffrey Clements, courtesy of the Estate of Marguerite Zorach/Gerald Peters Gallery, New York, NY, USA
Place of Birth:
Santa Rosa
Phonetic Spelling:
mahr-geh-REET TAHMP-sehn ZOHR-ahk
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Decorative and utilitarian works, Drawings and prints, Painting, Sculpture, Textiles and clothing
Artistic Role(s):
Batik Artist, Carpet Maker, Embroiderer, Illustrator, Muralist, Needleworker, Oil Painter, Painter, Portraitist, Printmaker, Textile Designer, Watercolorist, Woodcarver
Cubism, Fauvism
Artist's Biography:
Marguerite Thompson Zorach was born in Santa Rosa, California in 1887 and moved with her family to Fresno where she attended public schools and received additional education in music, art, and language. Her aunt Harriet Adelaide Harris, a friend of Gertrude Stein, arranged for Zorach to travel to Europe to study art in 1908. She was expected to be educated in traditional painting, however on her first day in Paris, Zorach attended an exhibition where she was surprised and inspired by the bold lines and flat colors of the Fauves.

She studied briefly with conservative painter Francis Auburtin at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, but was dissatisfied with the conventional style of painting. She enrolled at the more liberal La Palette where she began experimenting with Fauvism under the instruction of John Duncan Fergusson. During her time abroad, Zorach traveled extensively. She painted more abstractly, developing a style that was completely flat while she was in India and Pakistan.

In 1912, she returned to Fresno and exhibited in Los Angeles. Disappointed with the poor reception of her paintings, Zorach moved to New York where she joined fellow La Palette student William Zorach whom she married later that year. In 1913, Zorach saw the work of Picasso and Braque at the Armory Show and began incorporating elements of Cubism in her work. Both Marguerite and William enjoyed increasing success, and in 1916 were invited to participate in The Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters. In 1915 Zorach gave birth to her son Tessim and in 1917, her daughter Dahlov. She continued working and shared relatively equal success as her husband.

During the 1920s, William shifted from painting to sculpture and became more popular among critics and the public. Marguerite abandoned easel painting, and began working with embroidery and needlework. Although these works were very popular, they were not as well-received by art critics. During the 1930s she painted murals for the Works Progress Administration. She also did post office murals for the Section of Fine Arts in the early 1940s. She taught intermittently at Columbia University and in 1945 returned to oil painting.

Zorach continued exhibiting until late in life and died in New York in 1968. She is recognized for her contribution to American art as one of the first American artists to fully embrace the ideas of Post-Impressionism and Fauvism. Her early works continue to be praised for their notable freedom of style and perceptiveness of avant-garde originality.

Other Occupation(s):
Author, Teacher, Traveler
Place(s) of Residence:
New York
Where Trained/Schools:
La Palette, Paris, France (1908-1911) Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, France (1908) Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA (1908)
Related Visual Artists:
wife of William Zorach mother of Dahlov Ipcar friend of Jessica Stewart Dismorr student of John Duncan Fergusson student of Jacques Émile Blanche student of Francis Auburtin teacher of Marjorie Content
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Silver Medal, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA, USA (1919)
Earliest exhibition:
Le Salon d'Automne, Paris, France (1909)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts
The Washington Print Club Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition: Graphic Legacy
American Women Artists: 1830-1930
Artist retrospective(s):
Marguerite Zorach, Colby College of Art Museum, Waterville, ME, USA (1968-1969)
Related places
New York (died at)