Mabel Alvarez, 1891-1985

(above: Self Portrait, 1923, oil on canvas, 23 3/8 x 19 1/2 inches.) Please click on image to enlarge it.


The famed self-portrait that graced the cover of "Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945," edited by Dr. Patricia Trenton and published in conjunction with the Autry Museum of Western Heritage exhibition of the same name, demonstrates Ms. Alvarez's values. A picture of the painting is shown at the top of this article. The painting titled Myself with Dreams of Youth, is shown on the right.

For the rest of her life her paintings expressed her strong sense of passion and love of life, and they made real her dreams and in so doing echoed the dreams of mankind.

An early and important champion of Mabel's work was Arthur Millier, an art critic for the Los Angeles Times through the 1920's and 30's. Frequently displaying her work in the Times, he responded to those who, at the time, doubted a woman's ability to create great art, by insisting, "She isn't a woman painter, she's an artist."

(left: Dream of Youth, 1925, oil on canvas, 58 x 50 1/4 inches. Please click on image to enlarge it.

Throughout the 20's and 30's Mabel's art was displayed at the nation's best known museums and galleries. She was commissioned to paint works for many prominent personalities and institutions.

In 1929, for example, Mrs. Samuel Goldwyn requested she paint some pictures to decorate her young son's room (he is today the movie mogul, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.).

These caught the attention of Irving Berlin, who asked Mabel to paint a portrait of his child. Also in 1929, the University of Southern California commissioned her to paint the official portrait of the retiring dean of its law school. It is still displayed in their art gallery.

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