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Mabel Alvarez papers, 1898-1987

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.