New York

Marguerite Zorach

Brooklyn Museum, Kraushaar Gallery

In contrast to Ryan, whose work reached its peak late in the artist’s life, Marguerite Zorach painted her most successful pictures at the beginning of her career. From 1908 to 1911, while living in France, Zorach assimilated the flat, decorative patterning of the Nabis and Pont Aven Schools as well as the bright colors and elements of the vigorous brushwork and spontaneous drawing of the Fauves. Although one can point to the influence of Gauguin, perhaps Bonnard, certainly Derain and Vlaminck, Zorach’s work offers images of her own: a lively market scene where numbered signs pop out amid the jumble of pure hues and simplified figure shapes flatly arrayed across the picture surface; the abstract shapes of olive trees designing a Provence landscape; swirling brushstrokes tumbling down a hill in a sun-drenched, whitened view of the Road to Bethlehem.

After returning to the United States, Zorach continued for awhile to paint in an energetic Fauve manner—rendering the California forests in bold strokes and saturated colors. Two arcadian landscapes of 1913–14 utilize Matisse’s arabesque figure drawing within a high-keyed color range and symbolic context which suggest a knowledge of Puvis de Chavannes, as well as affinities to the work of her husband William Zorach at that time. This incipient symbolism is carried over into later paintings which employ a Cubist breakup of form in a decorative surface pattern. Here Zorach used Cubist fragmentation to design her compositions while retaining a strong narrative content. Her sources are Metzinger and Gleizes rather than Picasso and Braque. Subsequent paintings present a hodgepodge of formats over which the subject matter usually dominates. The indications are that Zorach never found her own personal language; she remained an artist in search of a style.

Susan Heinemann