An Artist's Adventure

 

 

F. Luis Mora strived for artistic perfection: 

To study a subject well, until he could paint it spontaneously

To show "richness in color and power in composition."

Above all, to paint beauty and light.

And to do all of this while minding the lessons of the Spanish Masters.

   

      After studying with the best teachers America offered, Frank Benson and Edmund Tarbell at the Boston Museum School, and H. Siddons Mowbray at the Art Students League, Mora looked for more instruction, and found it with the works of the old masters in Madrid.   Mora didn't merely admire the Spanish masters, he bonded with them.  He obtained permits at the Museo Del Prado, and painted copies of their masterpieces, studying their techniques and secrets.

    The Spanish masters became Mora's artistic mentors, and the central focus of his artistic expression.   Mora's life-long adventure was to transmit  the elements of Spanish mastery into American modern art.  He bonded with the works of Goya, El Greco and Fortuny I. It was Velazquez's works that  touched Mora's artistic heart.  He wrote, when entering the Velazquez gallery at The Prado Museum:  "I am wild again!"

    Like Velazquez, Mora was always interested in the character of the individual. He respected and had deep compassion for his subjects .  Also like Velazquez, Mora had an egalitarian approach to his subjects.  Whether painting a U.S. President or gypsies, all of Mora's subjects had dignity and inner beauty. 

  There were many superb artists who paid homage to the Spanish masters, notably Edouard Manet and James McNeill Whistler, but Spanish painting was Mora's soul and spirit.  The mastery they taught him transcended a stylized approach to art. He used various styles as necessary, to make his paintings "stand out in a world of paintings."  Mora had little  interest in artists who used one style or subject over and over again.  Kenneth Clark wrote of Velazquez: "his aim was simply to tell the whole truth about a complete visual impression."  The same can be said of Mora.  An effortless figural draftsman, Mora could concentrate on integrating a composition with the particular disposition of his subject.

    To appreciate Mora' versatility,  something should be said about American Impressionism, the style he often used. Mora could have easily painted entirely in American Impressionist style, indeed, his American mentor was William Merritt Chase, and Edward Potthast was his close friend. Mora's many Impressionist works are magnificent by any comparison. But he was faithful to his belief that the subject dictated the style. Some of his works are painterly and fluid, while others have short strokes applied with seeming abandon. He often used early 20th Century Realism.  One thing can be said about all of his paintings:  His subjects all speak strongly about their emotions and who they were within their slice of society.

    In order to understand the essence of Mora's art,  we must mention his personality.  He was social, and happy to lead the life of an artist. He had an optimistic outlook, and his students liked him.   He deeply loved his wife, and had close family ties. He admired diversity among people of various cultures, and had friends of many nationalities. He was not a starving artist; he lived well, and he could well afford to pursue his artistic adventure and his own artistic philosophy.  His friends say he was often hilarious, his family says he always lifted their spirits. 

    His art certainly lifts the spirit.  Many of his scenes have the atmosphere of laughter and warm breezes. The most bedraggled of Mora's subjects have self-respect and pride.  When his subjects are socially isolated, they are in the background of a painting, as they also were in the background of life's order.  Even in his earliest childhood battle scenes, where he showed death and blood, there was always someone to minister to the wounded.  His later World War I paintings were often optimistic portrayals of bravery.

    Mora was fiercely proud to be an Hispanic. He retained his Spanish accent although he entered the United States when he was just four years old, young enough to lose it completely. He wrote and spoke in Catalan and Spanish, was conversant in French, and fluent in written and spoken English. In one particularly telling self-portrait, he is in his New York City studio, dressed as a 17th Century Spaniard, drawing a nude, with his own copy of  Velazquez's  painting on the wall. This is the essence of F. Luis Mora. He is  flanked by an armored Japanese warrior and a classical Roman figure, saying that he was also a student of multicultural art history, elements of which he added to his signature style.

             

                                        F. Luis Mora                                           
American (1874-1940)

“The Artist’s Studio”

Signed Lower Left
Oil on Canvas
16” x 12”

   

 

 

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