Another diversion … Mable Alvarez (1891-1985).

All rather quiet on the Swynnerton front, though occasional works by Annie or others in her circle will hopefully start turning up again in the spring. So, for now, another artist whose work I happen to like, Mable Alvarez.

Mable Alvarez was born in 1891 on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, her family resettling in Los Angeles in 1909. She had some gifted relatives, her father being a pioneering researcher on leprosy, her uncle another leading medical researcher and government advisor, and a nephew who was a physics researcher who would later win a Nobel Prize for his work.

Like Annie, Mable was was recognised at a young age as a gifted artist, being admitted to the Art Students League of Los Angeles in 1915. At the age of 24, she painted a medal-winning mural for the Panama-California international exposition, celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal. As with Annie’s 1893 mural for the Chicago World Exposition, the work is sadly lost.

Designs for murals, 1913, perhaps showing the kind of work which won her award at the Panama-California Exposition.

Unlike Annie, Mable was not a figure who courted controversy, but simply persued her love of painting and colour throughout her long life, becoming increasingly deliberately naive and abstract in style over the years. She was also a bit of a ‘symbolist,’ though not with the political metaphores found in some of Annie’s work. Like Annie, her expressive use of colour was influenced by the non-representatial art of the era, and she switched between straightforward portraits and almost totally abstract works st times. Also, like Annie, she had a love of working outdoors.

I think it is Mable’s expressive use of colour and light/dark which particularly appeals to my eye. The first work I happened to come across was on Carol L. Jackson’s site in the early days of the web. (One of the first online art galleries, but which ceased to be updated in 2006. It is archived at The painting she exhibited was Italian Girl (called ‘The Italian Model‘ on Carol’s site).

Italian Girl (1924).

The best source of information is the Mabel Alvarez Estate web site,, from which many of the images below are reproduced, though the images there are rather small. Higher quality images can be found by a bit of Google-ing or searching of auction house archives.

Jonathan Russell

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