(RE)GENERATION: Six Decades of Claremont Artists

(re)Generation Exhibition

The Claremont Museum of Art’s permanent collection reflects our region’s rich artistic legacy. From the influence of Millard Sheets and the artists who arrived in the 1940s to the GIs who came to study after WWII, to the many contemporary artists who continue to call Claremont home, the collection serves to preserve and retell a rich past and looks to a future with unlimited potential as an arts-rich environment.

Claremont Museum of Art
200 W. First Street at the Claremont Depot
Claremont, CA
November 20, 2016 – March 26, 2017

The exhibition is generously sponsored by Gould Asset Management LLC.

Gould Asset Management

 

The Arts in Claremont

In the years following World War II, the community of Claremont in Southern California emerged as an important center for the visual arts, due in large measure to the inspired efforts of the artist and educator Millard Sheets. In Claremont, painters, sculptors, ceramists, enamel and mosaic artists, woodworkers and fiber artists devoted themselves to their creative pursuits with great imagination and energy, creating works that express the spirit of Postwar Modernism in California.

1930-40s:  Millard Sheets began by creating the art department at Scripps College and the Claremont Graduate School in the 1930-40s. The generation of teachers included Jean and Arthur Ames, Phil Dike, Henry Lee McFee, William Manker, Albert Stewart and Milford Zornes.

1950-60s: GIs returning from WWII and other students studied at CGS and stayed to make their home or teach in Claremont. This generation of mid-century students includes Karl Benjamin, Paul Darrow, Rupert Deese, Betty Davenport Ford, James Fuller, Susan Hertel, James Hueter, Roger Kuntz, Sam Maloof, Harrison McIntosh, James Strombotne, John Svenson, Martha Underwood and Jack Zajac.

1970-90s: Later generations of students and teachers came to Claremont already well known as a flourishing arts community. This generation includes Barbara Beretich, Aldo Casanova, Steve Comba, Jeff Faust, Crispin Gonzales, Rebecca Hamm, Tom Herberg, Jerome Mahoney, Joella Jean Mahoney, Walter Mix, Roland Reiss, Norma Tanega and Georgette Unis.

CLAREMONT: A CENTER FOR MODERN DESIGN

The three decades following the end of World War II stand out as a golden age in Claremont and the surrounding Pomona Valley. The work created in that time and place gave vibrant physical expression to Southern California’s informal lifestyle, commanding both national and international attention.

American confidence was high, and so too was the desire for the good life promised in the American Dream. After fifteen long years of economic crisis and war, there was enormous pent-up demand for modern housing and well-designed home furnishings. Another important factor was the GI Bill, which allowed large numbers of returning veterans unprecedented access to higher education, including art instruction. The alignment of these factors in the late 1940s and early 1950s set the stage for an explosion in craft production in Southern California—and for Claremont’s emergence as an important center for modern design.

MILLARD SHEETS: ADVOCATE FOR THE ARTS 

Millard Sheets in his Padua Hills studio in the early 1950s. Photo for Life Magazine from Sheets Family Archive.

Millard Sheets in his Padua Hills studio in the early 1950s. Photo for Life Magazine from Sheets Family Archive.

If the conditions were favorable for an artistic boom, a spark was still needed to ignite it. Millard Sheets was at once a painter, a muralist, an architectural designer, a teacher and art administrator, an entrepreneur, and an inspired cheerleader who tirelessly preached the importance of art in daily life. Handsome and energetic, daring and resourceful, he was a passionate ambassador for the arts. Sheets began by creating the art department at Scripps College and the Claremont Graduate School in the 1930-40s. He went on to develop the Art Department at the Los Angeles County Fair, planned and designed dozens of Home Savings & Loan Association branches throughout California, and became a powerful voice for the arts in the Southland.

Jean Ames
Born in Santa Ana in 1903, Jean Goodwin Ames first studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and UC Los Angeles. In 1937 she returned to school for a M.F.A. from the University of Southern California where met her husband Arthur Ames as students in Glen Lukens ceramics class. The two joined the mural division of the WPA in 1937 and were among the first to use mosaics in California. In 1940, Millard Sheets appointed Jean to the faculty at Scripps College and the Claremont Graduate School. She was the first Professor of Drawing and Design and taught until 1969.
This husband and wife team produced paintings, sculpture, prints, ceramics, enamels, tapestries, murals, mosaics and tile decorations throughout their long and richly productive careers. Jean’s subjects were often whimsical and her style influenced by Scandinavian design, which was popular at the time. They were both inspiring teachers and lived in the Padua Hills. She was the recipient of numerous awards, and was selected as Woman of the Year in Art by the Los Angeles Times in 1958. Her work can be seen around the Scripps College campus, including the Dance of Destiny tapestry triptych by Jean and Arthur Ames in the lobby of the Garrison Theatre.

Bennett Bean
Born in 1941, Bennet Bean grew up in Iowa City and received his B.A. from the University of Iowa in 1963. Bean moved to California to continue his art studies at the Claremont Graduate School. At Claremont, he studied under Paul Soldner and received a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1966. Bean also met and married fellow Claremont graduate student (of philosophy), Cathy Bao. After graduation, Bean accepted a position teaching ceramics at Wagner College on Staten Island in New York City, where he tried his hand at minimalist sculpture, using acrylic glass and cast acrylic.
Bennett Bean is best known for his pit fired white earthenware vessels, especially his collectible, non-functional bowls and teapots. His influences have included Japanese pottery, Native American pottery, English pottery in the tradition of Bernard Leach, and modern American pottery, including the work of George Ohr. An independent studio artist since 1979, Bean refocused his work on ceramic vessels. He resides in Blairstown, New Jersey.

Karl Benjamin
Born in 1925 in Chicago, Karl Benjamin, like most artists of his generation, served in the Navy in WWII and afterwards moved to California. By 1949 he had graduated from the University of Redlands and begun a 28-year career in elementary and high school teaching in Bloomington and Chino. His teaching led to an interest in art and in 1952, he moved to Claremont with his family.
In 1960 he received his M.A. from the Claremont Graduate School. By this time he had chosen painting as his medium and from his first Cubist inspired landscapes he moved quickly to the hard edged explorations of line and vibrant color for which he has become famous. From 1979 to 1994 Karl held the position of Artist-in-Residence and Professor of Art at Pomona College and Claremont Graduate University. His work is in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y., Los Angeles County Museum, MOCA, Los Angeles; MOMA San Francisco among others. He died in 2012 at his home in Claremont.

Barbara Beretich
Barbara Beretich was born in 1936 in Chicago, Illinois. Her family moved often and Barbara spent parts of her childhood in Chicago, San Diego, and Ohio. She received her BFA from the University of Illinois in 1958. After graduation, Beretich took a trip to Europe, where she befriended French artist Francoise Gilot, beginning a lifelong friendship that would lead to many other artist relationships and would allow Barbara to arrange over 100 exhibits through the years.
From 1962 to 1965, Beretich attended the Claremont Graduate University, earning her M.F.A. in sculpture. There she met Millard Sheets, who would become a life-long mentor. She did Independent Study in Paris, 1966-67, and in Italy, 1984 to 1988, with a concentration on bronze casting. Beretich makes her way in both painting and sculpture with numerous commissions for portrait or architectural studies.

Sculpture is for Beretich a means of expressing compassion, grief, or torment over serious issues such as evoked in her Moses/Christ piece which speaks of the Arab-Israeli conflict. But Beretich has a lighthearted side as well. She introduces her favorite cat, Coco, as her curator. Bronze cats or real cats, they are everywhere, and playful mermaid figures, too, that express her sense of humor.

From 1973 to 1978, Barbara served as the director of Gallery 8 in Claremont, which showcased numerous Claremont artists. From 1978 to the present, Barbara has run Galleria Beretich from her Claremont home, where her love and passion of Claremont art comes alive.

Aldo Casanova
The son of Italian immigrants, Aldo Casanova was born in San Francisco in 1929. He received his Bachelor and Master degrees at San Francisco State University and earned his Ph.D. from Ohio State University. While finishing his doctorate, Casanova won the prestigious Prix-de-Rome Prize, a fellowship that enabled him to work at the American Academy in Rome. He taught at Scripps College for 33 years, from 1966 through 1999.

Casanova once commented that his sculpture is a direct response to the world around him. “I’m from California and I have all this natural beauty around me . . . It’s wonderful and beautiful! Regrettably, I also see the destruction of the environment by man. I comment on the condition of the planet, politically and environmentally, through my work.”
In 1992, he was elected to the National Academy of Design, and in 1994, designated a fellow of the National Sculpture Society. Casanova’s work is held in numerous private and public collections and in museums such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the National Academy of Design, New York. Locally, his work can be seen in the Franklin Murphy Sculpture garden at UC Los Angeles., at The Huntington, and on the Scripps campus. He died in 2014.

Rupert Deese
Born in 1924 in Guam, Rupert Deese received a B.A. from Pomona College in 1950 and an M.F.A. from Claremont Graduate School in 1957. He studied ceramics with Richard Petterson and sculpture with Albert Stewart. From 1958 to 2005 Deese produced his perfectly smooth, functional pottery pieces using a palette of earth tones- browns, blues and pale greens. He shared a studio with Harrison McIntosh in Padua Hills for over 60 years.
Deese taught ceramics for many years at Mt. San Antonio College. From 1964 to 1983 he was a designer for Franciscan dinnerware, glassware and flatware, creating the best-selling Madeira pattern. His pieces are in several museum collections including the Mingei in San Diego, L.A. County Museum, the Renwick Gallery in Washington and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He died in 2010 at his home in Claremont.

Phil Dike
Phil Dike was born in 1906 in Redlands and studied art at Chouinard in Los Angeles in the early 20s. There he met Millard Sheets and shared a downtown studio with him. Dike developed an Impressionist style and preferred painting outdoors directly on canvas. After a stay in New York and studies in Europe he returned to Los Angeles, married artist Betty Love Woodward in 1933 and became color coordinator and story designer for Walt Disney Studios. He worked there until the end of World War 11 and was involved in the production of the animated classics Snow White and Fantasia.

He had become a major figure in the Regionalist movement, was elected to the California Water Color Society and became even closer to Sheets, Emil Kosa Jr. and Rex Brandt. His love of the ocean as a subject was clear during the years he and Rex Brandt conducted the Brandt-Dike Summer School painting course at Brandt’s home in Corona Del Mar (1947-1955.) In 1951 Sheets brought Dike to Claremont to teach advanced painting at Scripps College and the Claremont Graduate School where he taught for 20 years, retiring in 1971. He died in 1990.

Rebecca Hamm
Born in Claremont in 1961, Rebecca Hamm received her B.A. from California Polytechnic University, Pomona and her M.F.A. from the Claremont Graduate University. Exhibitions of her art work include solo shows at Los Angeles City College, the Claremont Museum of Art, the Ontario Museum of Art and History, the Huntington Beach Art Center, the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard and the University of Houston, Texas.

Rebecca teaches with many local universities and is currently a Lecturer at California Polytechnic University, Pomona. Her writings on Creativity and Inclusive Arts have been published internationally and she speaks for many groups, universities and organizations both locally and nationally. Rebecca has presented for TedX and creates private and public art and creativity workshops. She was recently honored by Senator Carol Liu as “Woman of the Year” for 2015 in the 25th senatorial district of California.

As Director of Arts and Enterprise for the Tierra del Sol Foundation, Rebecca leads the progressive studio programs where more than 100 individuals develop professional careers in the arts through First Street Gallery Art Center in Claremont and Sunland Studio Arts in Sunland, California.

Norm Hines
Born in New York City in 1938, Norm Hines attended The Gunnery School in Washington, Connecticut. An acclaimed athlete in his youth, Hines graduated from Pomona College in 1957. Inspired by a ceramics class taught by Paul Soldner, he went on to earn an M.F.A. from the Claremont Graduate School. He returned to Pomona College as an administrator, started a ceramics program in the 1970s, taught sculpture and chaired the art department twice. A Pomona College news article describes him as “a superb teacher and mentor, he touched the lives of generations of students, many of whom remained close to him throughout his life.”
He was also a prolific artist and his ceramics, marble and granite carvings, kinetic metal sculptures, bronze life-cast fruits and vegetables are represented in numerous collections. Large works include “In the Spirit of Excellence” on the Pomona College campus and “Caelum Moor”, a five-acre, park-like environment containing five sets of granite megaliths in Arlington, Texas. Along with an extraordinary body of work, his legacy is celebrated in the state-of-the-art Norm Hines Sculpture Studio at Pomona College. He passed away in 2016.

James Hueter
Born in San Francisco in 1925, James Hueter came to Claremont in the 1940s to attend Pomona College. He served in the army during the Second World War and returned to complete his B.A. at Pomona and M.F.A. at the Claremont Graduate School. Here Albert Stewart, and especially Henry Lee McFee nourished his interests in sculpture, architecture, design, and painting. The camaraderie of artists like Karl Benjamin, Paul Darrow, Roger Kuntz and Doug McClellan kept him in Claremont. He built his mid-century modern house and studio in an undeveloped area of Claremont where he still lives.

His first work was in landscape painting then he began to paint the human figure and especially the human face and eyes. Through the decades he added new materials to his oil paintings- mirrors and carved wood among others. His latest work, which he refers to as “sculptural paintings,” is a series of large wall pieces in relief, intricately constructed with carved wood, etched glass, mirrors and paint.

In an LA Weekly article, J. Ellenburg describes his work: “Hueter’s synthesis reflects his constant fascination with architecture and the human figure. His latest pieces instantly draw the viewer into perceptual mysteries. The effect is akin to looking into a hall of mirrors, with refracted imagery and harmonious color enticing you to further explore their eerie, illusory space.” Known to his peers and friends as “an artist’s artist,” he has exhibited throughout the United States and is a Professor Emeritus at Claremont Graduate University.

Joella Jean Mahoney
Born in Chicago in 1933, Joella Jean Mahoney has been a committed artist since early childhood. She recalls “At age three I experienced a powerful connection between myself and nature. I wanted to share this wonder at being alive with my parents and brothers. I could not yet explain wonder and awe in words, but I could through painting and drawing. So, I began serious art making and have never stopped.”

Mahoney is Professor of Art Emerita, University of La Verne where she began developing the art department in 1964. She holds a B.A. in Art from Northern Arizona University and an M.F.A. in painting from Claremont Graduate University (’65).

The canyons of the Colorado Plateau have become the major motif of her dramatic landscapes with their monumental scale of work and vision. Mahoney’s distinctive style bridges realism and abstraction. She lives in Sedona where she does the preparation for her landscapes by painting small, realistic works on location, during hiking and back packing trips in the Southwest. Back in her studio, she invents the big work in oil; not referencing the small works and never the photographs.

She has had retrospective exhibitions at Claremont Graduate University, Northern Arizona University Museum, the West Valley Museum in Phoenix, and a recent 50 year retrospective at the University of La Verne. Her canvases are known internationally via the US Art-in-Embassies Program.

Sam Maloof
Born in 1916 in Chino, Sam Maloof spoke Spanish and Arabic before he learned English. His interest in art and woodworking started early and in high school he took classes in mechanical drawing and simple carpentry. He graduated in 1934 and found work as a graphic artist. After serving in the army from 1941 to 1945, he worked as an assistant to Millard Sheets and often visited the Scripps art department. It was here that he met his wife Alfreda who had spent eight years teaching arts and crafts on Indian reservations in the Southwest. She introduced him to Native American art and together they became part of the artists’ colony in Claremont nurtured by the Claremont Colleges.

In 1953 they bought a “dingbat” bungalow in a lemon grove in Alta Loma. He transformed it into a timbered 22-room house with the handmade chairs, tables and cabinets such as he was beginning to sell. His contemporary design and use of beautiful woods have given his pieces a timeless quality.

His work is in several major American museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the White House Craft Collection. In 1985 he was named a MacArthur Fellow and was described by the Smithsonian Institution as “America’s most renowned contemporary furniture craftsman”. His house in Alta Loma is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open for tours. He died at his home in 2009.

William Manker
Born in Upland in 1902, William Manker studied art at Chouinard School. He began as a designer with Ernest Batchelder, one of the leaders of the Arts and Crafts movement in California. In 1932 he opened his own business William Manker Ceramics of low-fire cast ceramics that he sold to regional stores and galleries. Manker began the ceramics department at Scripps College in 1935. Soon after he opened a second studio with a large kiln at Padua Hills where he produced cast pieces and wheel-thrown work until 1948. Inspired by Asian ceramics in the 1930s, Manker created elegant and refined forms with colorful glazes. During the next decade he simplified his shapes and enriched his color, exploring ox-blood and copper reduction red glazes.
Manker taught at Scripps College and Claremont Graduate School from 1940-45 and organized the first pottery exhibitions at Lang Gallery that evolved into the Scripps Ceramic Annual that continues today. He served as Vice-President of the Design Division of the American Ceramic Society, a color consultant to House Beautiful Magazine and was chairman of the California Color Society. He lived in St. Helena, California until his death in 1997.

Harrison McIntosh
Born in Vallejo in 1914, Harrison McIntosh’s family moved to Stockton where he and his brother Robert first studied art. After moving to Los Angeles in 1937, the turning point in his career came when he took a ceramics class at the University of Southern California with Glen Lukens, the premiere artist in this medium. After the war, Harrison came to study at Scripps College and the Claremont Graduate School with Richard Petterson. He decided to stay in Claremont and build his house in the Padua Hills because as he put it: “This is the best place in the world.” For sixty years he shared a studio with fellow potter Rupert Deese.

An internationally known ceramicist, McIntosh’s work defined California design at mid-century, His long career spanned eight decades from his modern approach to classical vessel forms in the 1950s to his work in sculptural spheres floating on geometric chrome forms. Strong sensual shapes are often enhanced by distinctive surface decoration of thin sgrafitto lines or rhythmic brush spots. His serenely elegant stoneware vessels and sculptures are in museums all over the world including the LA County Museum, Mingei Museum in Japan, the Louvre in Paris and the Smithsonian. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 101.

Roland Reiss
Born in 1929 in Chicago, Roland Reiss is a painter and sculptor who has exhibited extensively in the United States and abroad. He received his B.A. from the University of Southern California and his M.F.A. from UC Los Angeles in 1957.
Before coming to Claremont, he taught painting and drawing at the University of California, Los Angeles and at the University of Colorado. At Claremont Graduate University he was Chair of the Art Department for 29 years and Benezet Professor of the Humanities. He also served as Director of the Center for the Arts and Director of “Paintings Edge”, an advanced program in painting for Idyllwild Arts.

Since 1992, Reiss has concentrated exclusively on abstract painting. His work has been seen at the Whitney Museum of American Art and at Documenta in Kassel, Germany. Exhibitions include museums in Brazil, Mexico, China, Canada, Italy, Germany, Japan and Taiwan. He is the recipient of four N.E.A. grants and of more than forty prizes and awards. His work is located in many public, corporate and private collections.

Millard Sheets
Born in 1907 on a ranch in Pomona, Millard Sheets showed early promise as an artist and attended Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. There he became accomplished in many media – painting, printmaking, mural painting and architectural design. An early trip to Europe introduced him to German Expressionism and Turner’s watercolors. At stops in New York’s museums he was most impressed by Winslow Homer’s watercolors and Thomas Hart Benton’s America Today murals. The other lasting impact on his art was the work of the Mexican Muralists and in 1932 he was an apprentice to David Alfaro Siquerios. His interest in Regionalism produced paintings of rural California as well as scenes of Los Angeles in the Depression.

In 1930 he arrived to develop the fledgling art department at Scripps College and form the Graduate art program. Under his leadership, Claremont became a significant artistic center. He built his house in the Padua Hills where so many of his artist friends lived.

The war years saw him designing flight-training schools and working as an artist-correspondent for Life magazine where he painted many scenes of India and Burma. After the war he returned to Scripps and the Claremont Graduate School to mentor returning GIs in their art careers. Many of these young men and women were drawn to the Abstract Expressionism and while it was not Sheet’s preferred style he encouraged them. Sheets was put in charge of the Fine Arts program at the L.A. County Fair in the early fifties and his students were put to work preparing the galleries and often being shown there. In 1953 Sheet’s became the director of the new Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles but he maintained his studio in Claremont. Here he designed many of the Home Federal Savings Banks with their stunning mosaic murals and worked with many architects on other projects. He retired to northern California where he died in 1989.

Paul Soldner
Born in 1929 in Summerville, Illinois, Paul Soldner became one of the most influential ceramic artists in America. In 1954 he became the first graduate student to enroll in what is now Otis College of Art and Design, which was headed by Millard Sheets. There he worked under the pioneering and highly experimental ceramist Peter Voulkos.

Soldner taught at Scripps College from 1957 to 1991 and curated the annual ceramics exhibitions. His openness to the creative accident led him to the “discovery” of American Raku and his innovation of “low-temperature salt fuming.” In the 1960s, while living in Aspen, he co-founded Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, Colorado. For many years he split his years between Aspen and Claremont. Soldner died at his home in Claremont in 2011.

Albert Stewart
Albert Stewart was born in England in 1900 but moved to the United States at age seven. Stewart began his artistic career in New York where he studied with Paul Manship at the Beaux Art Institute and became a follower of the archaic movement – sculptures with simplified, refined even elongated forms and animal statuary. Early on he received several commissions for monumental architectural pieces, including the pediment sculpture for the newly formed Department of Labor in Washington D.C. In 1939 Albert and Marion Stewart were married and moved to Claremont to take up positions in the Scripps College Art Department under Millard Sheets.

When they came to Scripps, Stewart took a traditional approach to sculpture, emphasizing anatomy and working from a live model. His students included Roger Kuntz, Paul Darrow, Doug McClellan and John Svenson with whom he later collaborated. Marion was appointed Lecturer in Weaving at Scripps, a position. They both retired from Scripps College in 1971 and continued to live in their Padua Hills home. Albert died in 1965 and Marion continued to give weaving classes in her home until she passed away in 2004 at the age of nearly 100.

James Strombotne
Born in South Dakota in 1934, but was raised and educated in Southern California, James Strombotne received his B.A. from Pomona College in 1956 and his M.F.A. from the Claremont Graduate School in 1959. But Strombotne moved away from the still lifes, landscapes and even abstractions of his Claremont colleagues. His paintings are explorations of his interior life in stark, strong images.

He received a fellowship from Pomona College to study in Italy, and in 1962 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for further study in Rome. He went on to teach for 40 years at the University of California, Riverside. He retired in 2005 and continues to draw and paint every day.
Strombotne has had over seventy five one-man shows, with twelve retrospectives: four in New York City, twenty-two in Los Angeles, and others in San Francisco, Washington D.C., Santa Barbara, Santa Fe, Newport Beach, and other venues. His work has also been included in many major group shows including two Whitney Biennials, the Carnegie International and the Corcoran Biennial. His work is in over 30 major museums including MOMA, the Smithsonian. LACMA, the Hirshhorn and the Whitney.

John Svenson
Born in Los Angeles in 1923, John Svenson grew up on a citrus grove in the Pomona Valley. After WWII, the GI Bill allowed him to study at the Claremont Graduate School with sculptor Albert Stewart and under Millard Sheet’s influence he became interested in public art.
His work in wood may be best known but he became adept in a multitude of mediums and moved into the field of medallions and relief sculpture. This encouraged architectural commissions that became an important part of his work. During his prolific career, Svenson produced over 23 sculptures for Home Savings and Loan banks and many public works in California and Alaska. He created over 100 sculptures in bronze, wood or stone for schools, banks, hotels, corporations and parks, many with historical themes. His sculpture Ranchero carved, on-site, from a 22-foot log of redwood for the 1953 Los Angeles County Fair still watches over the Fairplex.

His sculptures and medallic work are held in numerous public and private collections. Mentors Albert Stewart and Paul Manship nominated Svenson to the National Sculpture Society in 1966 and he advanced to “Fellow” in 1971. He has twice been awarded the AIA award for excellence in sculpture. Svenson passed away in 2016.

Martha Underwood
Born in Quincy Illinois in 1934, Martha Menke Underwood lived in many places in her early years. Her travels instilled her with a lifelong love of adventure. The daughter of a painter, she studied at Scripps College, Otis Art Institute and Claremont Graduate School in the 1950s and went on to design and produce murals for Millard Sheets for many years. She is best known for her watercolor paintings. An art professor at Chaffey College for 20 years, she remained active in the Claremont art community throughout her life. She died at her home in Claremont in 2012.

Milford Zornes
Born in the panhandle of Oklahoma in 1908, Milford Zornes was known early on as “the kid who could draw.” After moving to California, Zornes attended Pomona College and began his career in watercolor and during the Depression painted a large number of works for the WPA. Locally his most famous work is the mural in the Claremont Post Office of the area in the 1930s.
He became President of the California Watercolor Society and in 1943 was drafted into the Army/Air Force as a war artist in China, Burma and India until 1945. He became an art professor at Pomona College and then worked for the Air Force in Thule, Greenland where he produced a collection of paintings. Back in Claremont in the 1950s, he became the Art Director for the Padua Hills Theatre, where he arranged shows in the lobby for many local and regional artists. He had become a leader of the California watercolor movement and mentor to dozens of younger artists.
In 1963 Milford and his wife Pat bought the artist Maynard Dixon’s estate in Southern Utah but maintained an apartment at an adobe in Pomona. Through these years he held workshops and painting trips all over the world. His work is in countless collections and museums and had a painting selected by Eleanor Roosevelt for the White House. During the 1980s he developed macular degeneration but continued to paint full time even with limited vision. In 1999 the couple moved back to Claremont where he died in 2008 at the age of 100.