Milford Zornes to Valerie Cohen Letters

Jamie Weber
Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library
800 North Dartmouth Avenue
Claremont, CA 91711
Phone: (909) 607-3977
© 2021
The Claremont Colleges Library. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Milford Zornes to Valerie Cohen Letters
Dates: 1987-2004
Collection number: PC.0047
Creator: Zornes, James Milford, 1908-2008
Extent: 0.8 Linear Feet (2 document boxes)
Repository: Claremont Colleges. Library. Special Collections, The Claremont Colleges Library, Claremont, CA 91711.
Abstract: A collection of correspondence from Milford Zornes to Valerie Cohen from 1987 to 2004.
Physical Location: Please consult repository.
Language of Material: Languages represented in collection: English.

Administrative Information


Collection open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to reproduce or to publish must be submitted in writing to the Archives.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Milford Zornes to Valerie Cohen Letters (PC-0047). Pomona College Archives, Special Collections, The Claremont Colleges Library, Claremont, California.

Provenance/Source of Acquisition

Gift of Valerie Cohen, 2015.


Additions to the collection are not anticipated.

Processing Information

Processed by Jamie Weber in 2015.

Biography / Administrative History

James Milford Zornes was born in Camargo, Oklahoma on January 25, 1908 and learned to draw as a young boy under the tutelage of his mother, a former schoolteacher. When Milford was a teenager, his family settled in California, where he graduated from San Fernando High School. Prior to pursuing a career as an artist, Zornes worked as a freelance photographer and writer for Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and Scientific American magazines, and studied engineering in San Francisco for a brief period. After hitchhiking across the country to New York and traveling to Europe, Zornes returned to California and began dedicating himself to art.
In 1929, Zornes studied at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles with F. Tolles Chamberlain where he developed an interest in watercolor painting. He would continue lessons in this medium throughout 1930, studying under Millard Sheets at Scripps College and attending classes at Pomona College (x'34). During this period, Zornes became a member of the California Watercolor Society and the California Scene Painters, eventually also joining the American Watercolor Society. In the early 1930s, Zornes worked for the federally funded Public Works of Art Project, which produced watercolors for display in public buildings. Under this project, he painted murals for several U.S. post offices, including the Claremont branch. Throughout the decade, Zornes' notoriety as an artist steadily increased and he exhibited his paintings across the nation. One of his paintings was even chosen by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to hang in the White House. In 1943, Zornes was drafted into the U.S. Army and served as an official war artist in China, India, and Burma (Myanmar). His paintings for the War Department from this period are currently housed at the Pentagon.
In addition to being a prolific artist, Zornes also served as a professor and art instructor, teaching at Pomona College, Otis Art Institute, and the Pasadena School of Fine Arts. In the 1950s and 1960s, Zornes worked as the art director for the Padua Hills Theatre in Claremont and in 1963, bought the Maynard Dixon Studio in Southern Utah where he taught classes for 13 years. Throughout his life, Zornes would continue to conduct and host art workshops in various locales around the globe. He received numerous awards throughout the 1980s and 1990s including the Paul Prescott Barrow and David Prescott Burrows awards from Pomona College in 1987 and 1991, the "Most Distinguished Citizen" award from Southern Utah State College in 1988, the American Artist Achievement award from American Artist Magazine in 1994 and was elected National Academician by the National Academy of Design that same year. Milford Zornes died at the age of 100 at his home in Claremont on February 24, 2008.
Valerie Patricia Cohen was born in 1946 in Pasadena, California. She earned a B.A. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles (cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in 1968 and an M.A. in English from the University of California, Riverside in 1970. In 1978, she earned her A.A. in Police Science from Southern Utah University, which allowed her to work as a National Park Service Law Enforcement Ranger in Yosemite and Grand Teton National Parks for many seasons. In 1984, she commenced serious watercolor study with Milford Zornes, who introduced her to the "California School" of watercolor" style and continued her relationship with the artist for over twenty-five years. Today, Cohen continues her work as an artist, writer, illustrator, and environmental activist.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Milford Zornes to Valerie Cohen Letters collect correspondence written by artist, Milford Zornes to Valerie Cohen from 1987 to 2004. The correspondence includes a mixture of typed and handwritten letters by Zornes and focuses on a range of topics including watercolor painting techniques, writing, and travel. In some cases, correspondence is typed or written on letterhead featuring photocopies of Zornes' paintings. In addition to correspondence, several postcards and brochures for Zornes' art exhibitions are also included.

Organization and Arrangement

Folders are arranged chronologically by date within the collection.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library’s online public access catalog.

Subject Terms

Zornes, James Milford, 1908-2008
Watercolor painting

Genre and Form of Materials


Box 1, Folder 1


Box 1, Folder 2


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Box 1, Folder 4


Box 1, Folder 5


Box 1, Folder 6


Box 1, Folder 7


Box 1, Folder 8

1994 March-May

Box 1, Folder 9

1994 June-December

Box 2, Folder 1


Box 2, Folder 2


Box 2, Folder 3


Box 2, Folder 4


Box 2, Folder 5


Box 2, Folder 6


Box 2, Folder 7


Box 2, Folder 8


Box 2, Folder 9


Box 2, Folder 10


Box 2, Folder 11