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Recent Acquisitions: Marguerite Thompson Zorach, Mountain Stream, about 1917

Marguerite Thompson Zorach, Mountain Stream, about 1917, oil on canvas. Purchased through the Katharine T. and Merrill G. Beede 1929 Fund and the Florence and Lansing Porter Moore 1937 Fund; 2012.42.

Marguerite Thompson Zorach, Mountain Stream, about 1917, oil on canvas. Purchased through the Katharine T. and Merrill G. Beede 1929 Fund and the Florence and Lansing Porter Moore 1937 Fund; 2012.42.

Hood Quarterly, winter 2013

Marguerite Thompson Zorach (American, 1887–1968) began her career at the forefront of American modernism, having circulated in avant-garde circles from 1908 to 1911 in Paris and, following her return to the United States in 1912, in New York. She incorporated into her personal style aspects of cubism, fauvism, and German expressionism, with its emphasis on the spiritual in nature. Reflecting her deep connection to the outdoors, she often painted abstracted, Arcadian landscapes that emanate a timeless sense of the primordial. Following her 1912 marriage to fellow artist William Zorach, the New York–based couple agreed to spend summers in the country, where Marguerite felt most at home.

The Zorachs spent three of these summers in New Hampshire—first in Randolph in the White Mountains (1915) and then in Plainfield, in the Connecticut River Valley (1917, 1918). The steep slope and rushing water seen in Mountain Stream are more suggestive of New Hampshire’s White Mountains than the pastoral terrain of Plainfield, but the almost total lack of surviving oil paintings from their 1915 summer in Randolph (owing to a flawed paint formula) makes it more likely that she painted this work in Plainfield in 1917, possibly based on recollections of the White Mountains. Here Zorach accentuates the force of the water as it spills, swirls, and eddies over and around the massive, rounded boulders. She gives a dynamic, modernist twist to this conventional landscape motif by flattening the picture plane, abstracting forms, and deploying unconventional colors such as pink and aqua throughout the composition. Zorach rendered the slender, bending trees and circling pools with thin veils of color, achieving a luminous effect that reminds us that she also worked in watercolor that summer. The translucent hues and arched forms evoke stained glass, reinforcing the sense of water and nature as sanctifying, life-sustaining forces.

This is the museum’s first oil painting by Marguerite Zorach. It joins a 1922 New York City watercolor by her, and several works by her husband, William, including a 1915 watercolor and 1917 drawing, both done in new Hampshire.

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