Milford Zornes to Valerie Cohen Letters
Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library
800 North Dartmouth Avenue
Claremont, CA 91711
Phone: (909) 607-3977
The Claremont Colleges Library. All rights reserved.
Title: Milford Zornes to Valerie Cohen Letters
Collection number: PC.0047
Zornes, James Milford, 1908-2008
0.8 Linear Feet
(2 document boxes)
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 open for research.
All requests for permission to reproduce or to publish must be submitted in writing to
[Identification of item], Milford Zornes to Valerie Cohen Letters (PC-0047). Pomona
College Archives, Special Collections, The Claremont Colleges Library, Claremont,
Provenance/Source of Acquisition
Gift of Valerie Cohen, 2015.
Additions to the collection are not anticipated.
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
Organization and Arrangement
Folders are arranged chronologically by date within the collection.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the
library’s online public access catalog.
Zornes, James Milford, 1908-2008
Genre and Form of Materials