Selected examples by historic California artists


Mabel Alvarez (1891-1985)

Untitled (Figure in Colorful Waves), late 1920s


Oil on cardboard, 13 " x 9 " in.


     The 2008 exhibit, The Art Students League of Los Angeles, held at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, demonstrated the strong influence Stanton MacDonald Wright (co-inventor of Synchromism) had over his students.  Alvarez, the daughter of a physician, grew up in Hawaii and after moving to Los Angeles studied with Impressionists John Hubbard Rich and William Vincent Cahill, at which time she produced some of the area�s most outstanding Impressionist figure studies.  However, in the early 1920s, under the influence of Wright and several post-Impressionist artist friends, her brushwork became bolder and her colors brighter.  Like many local female artists she preferred subject matter that could be painted in a studio, such as figures/portraits and still lifes, and she tapped her emotions and subconscious to occasionally create dreamy, fantasy pieces.  In Untitled (Figure in Colorful Waves) all her influences come together as she captures a fantasy nude in bright, Wright-like rainbow waves of color.





Mabel Alvarez (1891-1985)

Untitled (In the Garden), c. 1923

Oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in.


Like many women artists, Mabel Alvarez produced most of her works indoors in a studio and thus her subjects ran to still lifes, portraits, and figural paintings.  Untitled (In the Garden), is a figural work, whose stylistic similarity to Alvarez�s award-winning work Self Portrait of 1923 probably dates it to about the same time.  The rich, saturated color and broad brushwork reflects her influence from friends John Hubbard Rich and other painters of the 1920s who gravitated to bold colors and expressive brushwork in a kind of post-Impressionism.  The identity of the model is unknown.  The canvas was discovered after Alvarez�s death in the hands of her former dealer, Al Kramer, rolled up with others.

 Provenance: Al Kramer  (no 56 of Kramer inventory of Alvarez paintings); exhibitions and publications: reproduced in color in Glenn Bassett, "Mabel Alvarez, A Personal Memory," American Art Review, v. XI, no. 2, April 1999, p. 187; postcard made by Orange County Museum of Art in spring 1999; reproduced in color in exh. cat.: Mabel Alvarez: A Retrospective, Laband Art Gallery, Loyola Marymount University, LA, March 11 � April 11, 1999 and Orange County Museum of Art, May 1 � July 18, 1999; exhibited, 75 Works 75 Years Collecting the Art of California, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, Ca. April 2 - July 11, 1993, and reproduced in the catalogue in color p. 33; reproduced American Art Review, v. XII, no. 4, August 2000, cover and p. 179; reproduced Orange County Register, Fine Arts, Sunday, May 16, 1999, Show, p. 39;






Mabel Alvarez (1891-1985)

Untitled (Dancing Woman), late 1920s

terra cotta with pale blue-green glaze, 13 � x 6 x 1 in.       


Provenance: Al Kramer (no. 1 of Kramer inventory of Alvarez works)

Untitled (Dancing Woman), a ceramic sculpture, departs dramatically from the Alvarez paintings discussed above in that it reflects some new directions taken by the artist, who was always eager to try new styles, subjects and media.  Upon returning from a European trip in late 1924, not only did she turn to decorative themes, gaining her inspiration from reproductions in books on Chinese painting, Persian art, East Indian and Tibetan art, but she began to explore some of the many religions that arose in Los Angeles including the ideas of Will Levington Comfort.  About the same time, with long-time friend, modernist artist Maxine Albro, she became interested in clay as a medium.  (California, because of its many clay deposits, was a center for the production of terra cotta tiles and other embellishments for architecture as well as smaller items such as pots by both individual studios and large commercial enterprises.)   Sculpting the clay in her own studio, she created painted and glazed tiles, plaques, concrete bas reliefs, and a fountain.  The finished pieces were sent to the Italian Terracotta Company for firing.  Dancing Woman combines all three of her late 1920s interests -- her interest in decorative art, her fascination with the ideal and spiritual, and her exploration of the ceramic medium.  The blue-green glaze may have been inspired by Persian ceramics.  Just before the stock market crash of 1929 she received a major commission to create all the garden tiles for a new home being built by one of the Hollywood stars.  The Depression forestalled the project.



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