Mabel Alvarez Biography

Mabel Alvarez




Mabel Alvarez was born in Waialua, Hawaii, the youngest of five children of Clementine Setza Alvarez and Dr. Luis Fernandez Alvarez, a government physician.


Her father, a native of Spain and son of the business manager to the Spanish king's son, provided medical care to Chinese and Japanese workers imported to Hawaii. He was later the personal physician to Queen Liluokalani and her husband. Mabel's mother came from a prominent family of musicians and physicians in St. Paul, Minnesota.


From early childhood, Mabel’s artistic talent was clear and her father insured that she had a lifetime of financial security to pursue fine art.  In 1915, she enrolled in the leading art school in Los Angeles, directed by William Cahill. A painter, lithographer, and muralist, her Modern Realist work was lauded by Arthur Millier, a prominent art critic of the Los Angeles Times in the 1920s and 30s.  From 1918, she did a number of symbolic paintings influenced by Will Levington Comfort, a Los Angeles philosopher who espoused meditation experiences.  She also loved to do cheerful paintings that appealed to children, and the Samuel Goldwyn and Irving Berlin families commissioned her to do portraits and murals for their children.


In 1931 in Los Angeles, she met Morgan Russell, co-founder of the Synchromy art movement.  A student of both Matisse and Cezanne, he became Mabel's mentor for the remaining 20 years of his life, and his joyous sense of color and rhythmic form and structure fit beautifully with her natural tendencies.


After her father's death in 1937, she returned to Hawaii for a year and painted portraits, figure studies, and still lifes.


A trip to the Caribbean islands in the 1950s led to brightening of her palette and using many oranges, reds, and bright pinks in tropical genre scenes.  Later travels to Mexico reinforced these tendencies.  As she got older, she turned more and more to religious and symbolic subjects. S he spent the last several years of her life in a Los Angeles nursing home and died at age 94 on March 13, 1985.


She exhibited nationwide including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Los Angeles County Museum and in 1999 became one of a group of important American artists showcased in Paris by the U.S. State Department.  In August, 1999, a special exhibition of her work, titled "A Radiant Thread," was held at the Adamson-Duvannes Galleries in Los Angeles.



"American Art Review"

David Forbes, Encounters With Paradise