Born in Lithuania, William Zorach immigrated with his family to the United States when he was just four years old, settling in Cleveland, Ohio. Zorach displayed exceptional artistic talent at a young age and began to study lithography at night at the Cleveland School of Art. In 1907, Zorach saved enough money to move to New York and study art at the National Academy of Design, where he received several awards for his paintings and drawings. He continued his studies in Paris in 1910 at La Palette. In paris, he was greatly influenced by the Cubist and Fauvist movements and had several paintings exhibited at the Salon d'Automme. This success fueled his career back in the states where he was honored with his first one-man exhibition. His work was then accepted in to the famous Armory Show of 1913.
For the next nine years, Zorach continued to think of himself as a painter, although he had already begun to experiment in sculpting. He was a successful painter and therefore reluctant to abandon it completely. However, in 1922, he painted his last oil. With no formal training as a sculptor, Zorach's first sculptures were of wood and his carving tools were primitive, such as a jack-knife. He soon allied himself with a growing number of modern sculptors, and from the beginning, found a deep satisfaction in the low and patient process of freeing the image from its imprisoning block, watching the forms emerge and appear. Zorach was always sensitive to the characteristic qualities of his material and occasionally let them play a major role in determining his forms.
In 1923, Zorach moved to Maine and continued to sculpt, soon after being recognized as one of the country's premier artists, honored with multiple commissions throughout the country and exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Fine Art, and the Whitney Museum of Art, among others. Today his work can be found in such prestigious museums as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art.
In all, Zorach's sculpture is not outwardly American. it deals with the universal themes of life. He ultimately played a major role in rescuing American sculpture from the neoclassical tendencies and illustrative modeling that dominated the turn of the century. He helped to develop an isolated avant-garde in his focus of universal themes, the intrinsic beauty of his material, sensuous tactile values, subtlety of modeling and a variety of imagery.