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James Milford Zornes (1908-2008)

Milford Zornes was born January 25, 1908 in Camargo, Oklahoma. His interest in art began at a young age when his mother, a school teacher, taught him basic fundamental drawing skills. At 17, he was hired as the United States General Land Office Survey Service lineman on a crew survey. He traveled as far as Yosemite and after his return in 1925, joined his family in San Fernando Valley, California. He finished high school and received basic instruction in art, then worked as a sailor in the U.S. Merchant Marines.

Zornes enrolled at the Otis Art Institute in 1930 and took painting lessons from F. Tolles Chamberlin. Having received a scholarship from Pomona College in Claremont, he studied with Millard Sheets and became friends with fellow artist Tom Craig. Soon after his graduation, he won first place in the 1933 Los Angeles County Fair Art Exhibition for watercolor and in 1934 joined California Watercolor Society. During the Depression, he was commissioned to paint for the Public Works of Art Project.


During the 1930’s and ’40’s he taught at Polytechnic School in Pasadena, Otis Art Institute, Pomona College, UC Santa Barbara, and after 1956 at the Pasadena School of Fine Arts. In 1939, he received a commission from the Works Progress Administration to create and install a mural for US Post Office in El Campo, Texas. Zornes was drafted to the U.S. Army during World War II and served as the official artist in Asia from 1942-45. In 1946, he traveled to Tucson, Arizona, where along with artist Buck Weaver, helped Edith Hamlin Dixon finish two mural paintings that artist Maynard Dixon began just prior to his death. In 1964, Zornes was given a prestigious title by being elected as an Associate of the National Academy of Design.


From 1978-1988, Zornes held watercolor workshops worldwide. By 1994, he was honored the full National Academian, the highest honor awarded to a representational artist in the United States. He passed away in his home in Claremont, California on February 28, 2008.


Member: Associate of the National Academy of Design; American Watercolor Society; San Diego Fine Art Society; Pasadena Society of Artists; Western Foundation of Art; National Society of Printmakers; Laguna Beach Art Association; Riverside Art Association; California Watercolor Society; Pomona Valley Art Association.


Selected exhibitions: Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1934; Scripps College Art Gallery, California, 1934, 1936,1940; Laguna Museum of Art, 1935, 1956; California Pacific International Exposition, San Diego, California, 1935; Wichita Art Museum, Kansas, 1937; Gallery of Modern Masters, Washington, D.C, 1937; Chicago Art Institute, Illinois, 1938; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Denver Museum, Colorado; Cleveland Museum, Ohio; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; Toledo Museum, Ohio; Riverside Museum, New York; National Academy of Design, New York; Golden Gate International Exposition, California, 1940; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1943, 1949, 1950; Stendahl Galleries, Los Angeles, California, 1943; United Nations Art Exhibit, Bombay, India, 1943; Pasadena Art Institute, 1947; California Watercolor Society, 1955, 1962, 1998; American Watercolor Society, 1955, 1962, 1963; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1967; Claremont Fine Arts, California, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005; Fullerton College Art Gallery, California, 1999; Pasadena Museum of California Art, 2003; Ontario Museum of History and Art, Canada, 2004; 19th St. West Gallery, Costa Mesa, California, 2007.


Works Held: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Pomona College, Claremont; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Diego Fine Art Society; White House, Washington, DC; Glendale High School; Beverly Hills High School; U.S. War Department; Claremont Post Office; Butler Art Institute.


Sources: Milford Zornes: An American Artist, Gordon McClelland and Austin McClelland 

Milford Zornes, Gordon McClelland and Milford Zornes

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