(American, born in Lithuania, 1887–1966)
Torso with Head (the artist’s daughter,
Dahlov, at age ten), 1927
Museum purchase with funds provided by the 1072 Society, 2012, in memory of Mrs. Dorry Ann Johnston Blackburn, Dr. Lucile McGehee Haynes, and Mrs. Jean Farr Henderson
By Dennis Harper, curator of collections and exhibitions
William Zorach met his wife Marguerite while both were studying painting in Paris in 1911. Their careers as American modernists were nurtured by the vibrancy of New York and the solace of summers spent in the countryside. The land they bought in coastal Maine in 1923 is still home to their daughter, Dahlov, the subject of this stone carving, who became a painter and noted children’s book illustrator.
In 1922 Zorach devoted himself full-time to sculpture. His self-taught practice of direct carving in wood and stone resulted in simple and compact forms inspired by Western antiquity as well as the art of Africa and the Aztec. Torso with Head references the early Greek archaic style of a kouros. Like ancient Greek statuary that illustrated the ideal of youth in a perfectly balanced figure—exemplifying beauty, health, and inner strength—Zorach’s piece is less concerned with capturing the personality of his ten-year-old daughter as much as it is an expression of the essence of youthful grace. Nonetheless, those who know his work easily come to recognize the pointed chin and bangs of this beloved daughter. The Zorachs adored both of their children, who often served as models as did their own offspring, giving a true sense of how intertwined their art and family life were.