William Zorach1889 - 1966
Sculptor, painter, lithographer, writer
Born: February 28, 1889, Eurburg (now Yurbarkas), Lithuania
Died: November 15, 1966, Bath, Maine
Born Zorach Samovich, the eighth of his parents' ten children, in Lithuania, William Zorach immigrated to the United States with his family in 1893. Settling in Cleveland, Ohio, the family adopted Finkelstein as their new surname, and the young Zorach attended the public schools (where a grade school teacher changed Zorach to "William") before beginning study at the Cleveland School of Art (now Cleveland Institute of Art) around 1903. When he began to learn painting under Henry G. Keller at the School, William had already been working as a lithographer with the W.J. Morgan Lithograph Company since 1902, as he had given up traditional schooling after the eighth grade in order to contribute to his family's income. His experience in the lithography studio proved valuable, as William had personal access to several professional artists including Archibald Willard, William Sommer, and Billy Crane. William took evening classes until 1906 to supplement his on-the-job learning in the lithography studio.
In 1908, William left Cleveland for New York, and studied at the National Academy of Design before similarly leaving New York for Paris to undertake a year at the Acadamie de la Palette. While in Paris, William met artist Marguerite Thompson, whom he would marry in 1912 back in New York; the couple decided to adopt the surname Zorach together to honor William's original given name, and the two artists would spend much of their union exhibiting together.
Zorach was a member of the avant-garde movement that revolutionized painting around the turn of the twentieth century. As a young artist, William adopted Marguerite's Fauvist beliefs, and sought to eradicate earth tone colors from his compositions. Painting in the post-impressionist mode of bold lines and colors, Zorach had his work included in the groundbreaking Armory Show of 1913 in New York. He strongly believed in the abundance of nature as a source for artistic inspiration, and was influenced by the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
After William married Marguerite, the couple left their Greenwich Village apartment each summer to travel to various country retreats throughout the United States where both artists would paint and experiment with new media. During the summer of 1918, William made his first sculptures, and quickly realized that he preferred working in three-dimensional media. Sculpting mostly in wood and stone for the rest of his career, Zorach had no formal training in his chosen medium. Despite this, his simple and solid renderings garnered him significant recognition as one of the foremost sculptors of the time.