Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mabel Alvarez, Borderline Modernist

The fine portrait shown above is a 1923 self-depiction by Mabel Alvarez (1891-1985), aunt of Luis Walter Alvarez (1911-88), winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1968.

Her Wikipedia entry is here and another biographical sketch here.

She was born Hawaii when it was a kingdom, but moved to the mainland while young, spending most of her life in California. The biographical notes indicate that she was interested in spiritual matters and the color theories of Stanton Macdonald-Wright, the Synchromist painter I discussed here. Apparently she had an affinity with green for a number of years. Alvarez has also been associated with the California Impressionism school, though she did few or no landscape paintings. She is better classed with the Group of Eight, southern California artists who maintained an association from 1921 till 1928.

Alvarez was a modernist of sorts whose paintings made use of the modernist vocabulary to a sometimes greater -- but usually far lesser -- extent. As can be seen below, people portrayed in the paintings seem to be exclusively women.


The Italian Model - 1924

Dream of Youth - c.1925
Here Alvarez channels Symbolism.

The hair style suggests this was painted in the early 1940s.

Girl Seated in the Garden
I'm guessing this dates from around 1930.

Ladies with Parasols - 1958
A comparatively late painting showing Synchromist influence.

In the Garden - 1925
Aside from the self-portrait at the top, I find this to be the most appealing work.

Portrait of a Woman
Another hard to date painting, but probably from the 1940s.

Self-Portrait - 1945
She would have been about 53 and aging gracefully.

Alvarez is hard to pin down, for me anyway. Most of what I've found on the Internet is pleasing, though I prefer it when images have solidity rather than a flattened Impressionistic character.

1 comment:

dearieme said...

Why such glum subjects? Why would I want them on my wall?