Milford Zornes (1908-2008)

A prominent artist in the watercolor movement known as the California Style, Milford Zornes became especially known for his application of watercolor in broad brush strokes. He was born in Camargo, Oklahoma, and moved to California as a teenager. Then at age 20, he began adventurous travel that took him across the United States, had him working on the docks of New York City, and then shipping out to Denmark as a merchant seaman. He returned to Los Angeles by 1930, and studied at the Otis Art Institute with F. Tolles Chamberlain, and at Pomona College where Millard Sheets was his teacher. During the 1930s watercolor was a relatively inexpensive medium that could be easily transported for on-site paintings. Instead of using it to just color drawings, artists began to use watercolor as a medium, substantial in itself, like oil. Those working in the genre were part of the California Watercolor Society that included Phil Dike and Millard Sheets. These artists expanded the vocabulary of traditional watercolor painting by heightening the expressive qualities of the medium and expanding the size. East Coast collectors and institutions took notice and began to buy their work. Joining the group in the 1930s, Zornes quickly became an artist of major importance. He was given a solo exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1933. President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt noticed his work and selected a painting for the White House. The quick transformation from art student to a nationally-recognized artist helped Zornes launch a career that took him around the world and established him as a key figure among California Style artists. Zornes work is included in collections of major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Butler Institute of Art, National Academy of Design, San Diego Museum of Art, Laguna Beach Museum of Art, U.S. War Department Collection, Library of Congress Collection, Pomona Public Library, the Fontana Public Library, Shatford Library, Pasadena City College, Gardena High School Art Collection. Zornes was an active member of the National Academy of Design (A.N.A.), American Watercolor Society (Past President) and West Coast Watercolor Society.