The Mabel Alvarez papers measure 2.3 linear feet and date from 1898 to 1987. The papers include scattered biographical information, scattered letters, unpublished prose, printed materials, sketchbooks, expense books, notebooks, diaries and journals, address books, photographs, and scrapbooks documenting the life and career of Los Angeles painter Mabel Alvarez.
Scope and Content Note:
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.
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)
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 Mabel Alvarez papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in 1988 by Glenn Basset, art dealer and friend of Mabel Alvarez.
The collection is open for research. Use of microfilmed material requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington, D.C. research facility.
The Mabel Alvarez papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.