Marguerite Thompson Zorach (1887 – 1968)

 

Kweiseye is an art criticism blog written by Tom Kwei. If you enjoy this article, browse the archive HERE for more than 60 other critiques of both artists and exhibitions. Any questions/queries/use: tomkweipoet@gmail.com.

As one of America’s leading modernist painters of the early 21st century, Marguerite Thompson Zorach combined the wild colour play of the Fauvists with a propensity for the rural. Also responsible for helping to introduce Cubist ideas to the masses, her style later abandoned painting altogether in favour of creating embroider tapestries.

 ‘Signs of Autumn’ – 1930 

marguerite-thompson-zorach-signs-of-autumn-paintings-oil-zoom

This work of great delicacy often feels to me as two paintings put together. The top half being a wonderful form of mountains, with the settling sun emanating a rich warmth from between the valley. And the bottom acting as a far more traditional Fauvist image, with its bold tones and squiggled shores. Indeed the division in of itself seems to evoke its title, with the slumbered glow of Summer in the background giving way to the first inklings of Autumn in the fore.

But this is not a scene of reverent and calm beauty however. Our perspective on the painting is soon broken by the darting, near mechanical birds whose wingspan draws us to the odd boil at the middle of the lake. The motion of the birds though simple is effective, the three essentially acting as one in a showcase of spreading wings. As for the unusual spot in the centre,  it feels a sign of the unseen endless bustle of life especially dominant in the first signs of a season.

The abstraction doesn’t distract too much however, perhaps because like most Fauvist work, we appreciate the inherent medley of the style rather than its evocation of reality. Water is more deep fog here, something that purls across the bed rather than fill it.

‘Landscape with trucks and barn’

zorach

Untroubled by people or animals, the recognisable elements of humanity here are de-emphasised in favour of the countryside scene. A landscape enlivened by emerald and peach hues that show dialogue with the celestial sky above. And one that acts as the antithesis of the buildings all dull and clumsy, with their cold presence as solid as the hunched mountains behind.

This is a place to be celebrated for its own beauty, rather than the reality we recognise it to hold. The tree outcrops that offer a midpoint between the houses and the mountains are especially well realised. Their minute strokes gathering weight from far away as forests do.

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