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Mabel Alvarez papers, 1898-1987

Mabel Alvarez papers, 1898-1987

Alvarez, Mabel, 1891-1985


Collection Information

Size: 2.3 linear ft. (on 4 microfilm reels)

Summary: The papers of Mabel Alvarez (1898-1985) measure 2.3 linear feet and date from 1898-1987. The collection documents both her painting career as well as her personal life through correspondence, original writings, sketches, printed material, diaries and journals, financial records, and scrapbooks.

Biographical/Historical Note

Painter; Los Angeles, Calif. Born in Hawaii, moved to Los Angeles, Calif. while a child. Studied with William Vincent Cahill and Stanton Macdonald-Wright and specialized in portraiture, especially of children.


Donated in 1988 by Glenn Basset, Alvarez's dealer and friend.

A Finding Aid to the Mabel Alvarez Papers,
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Mabel Alvarez (1891-1985) established her career as a portrait painter in California. Born in Hawaii, she moved to Los Angeles as a child and later studied with Stanton Macdonald Wright. Her early work was characterized by interests in Symbolism and Art Nouveau as well as the influences of Impressionism. Alvarez also studied with William Cahill at the School for Illustration and Painting which Cahill founded with John Hubbard Rich in 1914.
As a young woman, Alvarez was influenced by the philosophical writings of Will Levington Comfort, who espoused the principles of Theosophy and Eastern mysticism. She attended lectures and meditation sessions at Comfort's Highland Park home, experiences which fostered artistic experimentation and departure. Alvarez became part of the "Group of Eight" in 1922, a forward thinking artists collective which veered away from the predictable standards of the California Art Club. The members of the group were Henri de Kruif, Luvena and Edouard Vysekal, Donna Schuster, Roscoe Shrader, Clarence Hinkle and her former teacher, John Hubbard Rich.
Her work took a decisive turn when she met the painter Morgan Russel in 1927. At this time her paintings became more figurative rather than decorative or ambiguous, with delicate choices of color, a skill she mastered by the end of her career. Mabel Alvarez continued to paint through her sixties and seventies, and to exhibit regularly, including with the Women Painters West organization. She is noted for her important role in the emergence of Southern California Modernism and is remembered for her contribution to California Impressionism as well as to figure, still life and portrait painting.
Mabel Alvarez died on March 13, 1985 at the age of 93.
The collection is arranged into eleven series based primarily on document type and chronological order.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1907-1970 (Box 1; 3 folders; reel 5672)
Series 2: Letters, 1909-1978 (Box 1; 1 folder; reel 5672)
Series 3: Writings, 1898, 1910-1935, undated (Box 1; 11 folders; reel 5672)
Series 4: Printed Material, 1917-1987, undated (Box 1; 10 folders; reel 5672)
Series 5: Sketchbooks, 1949-1950, undated (Box 1; 2 folders; reel 5672)
Series 6: Expense Books, 1914-1977 (Box 1; 1 folder; reel 5672)
Series 7: Notebooks on Exhibition and Paintings, 1921-1953 (Box 1; 1 folder; reel 5673)
Series 8: Diaries and Journals, 1909-1984 (Box 1-2; 15 folders; reel 5673-5675)
Series 9: Address Books, undated (Box 2; 2 folders; reel 5675)
Series 10: Photographs, 1905-1983, undated (Box 2; 5 folders; reel 5675)
Series 11: Scrapbooks, 1898-1984 (Box 3; 2 scrapbooks; reel 5675)
Donated in 1988 by Glenn Basset, Alvarez's dealer and friend.
Processing Information
The collection was originally processed by Olivia Evens in 1991. A finding aid and reel/box inventory was completed by Rosa M. Fernandez in September 2000.

Additional Forms Available

Microfilm reels 5672-5675 available for use at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

How to Cite This Collection

Mabel Alvarez papers, 1898-1987. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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