Demeter

MAKER:
Artist

William Zorach ( American, 1887 - 1966 )

DATE:
1940
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General Description

Though its subject comes from Greek mythology, William Zorach's Demeter represents the modern sculptural movement toward simplicity. The stylized female portrait sits atop a dark marble base and draws attention to the contrast between the two types of stone. As a teacher at the Art Students League from 1929 to 1960, Zorach pushed students to consider the inherent qualities of their materials and practice the technique of direct carving.

William Zorach immigrated from Lithuania in 1891. He spent his childhood in Cleveland, Ohio and studied at the Cleveland School of Art. As a young man Zorach received further training at the National Academy of Design (1908) and moved to Paris in 1910. After exhibiting Fauvist watercolors in the Salon d'Automne (1911, Paris) and the Armory Show (1913, New York, NY), Zorach began sculpting full time in 1922. His early commissions include a statue of Benjamin Franklin at the United States Post Office in Washington DC, a monumental sculpture Builders of the Future for the New York World's Fair in 1939, and a figure sculpture for Radio City Music Hall in 1933.

Emily Schiller, Digital Collections Content Coordinator, 2016.

Fun Facts

  • Demeter was included in a contemporary art exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in 1945. For one week during the exhibition, William Zorach acted as a Visiting Artist. He gave lectures and three demonstrations of modeling and carving to museum supporters and local artists. The week was billed as "an event of unusual interest" and likely resulted in Zorach donating his demonstration piece Head (1945.34) to the Museum's permanent collection.

  • Zorach taught many other artists represented in the DMA collection. These include Bess Bigham Hubbard (1947.36), Lee Bontecou (1963.22.FA), and Dorothy Austin (1994.174; 1933.22; 2001.47).

  • Prior to visiting Dallas in 1945, William Zorach's connection to the city came from exhibiting four watercolor landscapes in a Dallas Art Association exhibition in 1922 and discussing the possibility of a public monument to pioneers in 1936.

  • William Zorach married Marguerite Thompson in 1912. His wife was an accomplished painter and textile designer, and an equally beloved and influential teacher at the Art Students League.

Web Resources

William & Marguerite Zorach
See examples of both artist's work, exhibitions featuring their works, biographical essays, and additional resources provided by Zorach Collection L.L.C.