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Francis Mora

 (1874 - 1940)
Francis Luis Mora was active/lived in New York, Connecticut.  Francis Mora is known for figure, portrait, mural paintings, illustrations.

Francis Mora

Biography from the Archives of askART

F. Luis Mora 1874-1940: 

F. (Francis) Luis Mora was born in Montevideo, Uruguay on July 27, 1874.  His father, Domingo Mora (1840- 1911), was a Spanish architectural sculptor.  His mother, Laura Gaillard, had two sisters who married into the extended Bacardi rum family of Santiago de Cuba, and Luis Mora was their nephew.  His brother was Joseph Jacinto Jo Mora (1876-1947), who would become a noted California artist.

In 1880, Domingo Mora accepted a position as Director of Design for the Perth Amboy Terra Cotta Company in New Jersey.  Luis Mora was raised in Perth Amboy, receiving his first art instruction from his father.  The family moved to Allston, Massachusetts where Luis Mora graduated from high school.

F. Luis Mora entered the Boston Museum School of Fine Art in 1889, when he was fifteen years old.  His teachers were Frank Benson and Edmund Tarbell.  In 1893, Mora returned to New York to work as an illustrator and to study composition with H. Siddons Mowbray at the Art Students League.

In 1900, Mora married Sophia Brown Compton, daughter of the Mayor of Perth Amboy, NJ.  The couple lived in New York City, and the artist also kept a studio in Perth Amboy.  Luis Mora quickly became a successful figural painter, portraitist, muralist and illustrator.

Mora's life-long artistic goal was to adapt the techniques of the Spanish Old Masters into American modern painting.  Mora frequently traveled to Spain to visit his extended family, and to paint.  He also copied masterpieces by Diego Velázquez in the El Museo del Prado in Madrid.  His patrons for Spanish scenes were Alfred Stieglitz and William Macbeth.  He had a solo show of Spanish paintings in 1910 at the New York Watercolor Club.

In 1904, Mora was elected an Associate at the National Academy of Design, and became a full member in 1906.  He was the first Hispanic to be elected to the NAD, and he became an exhibition jury member in 1907.  Mora was also a member of The National Arts Club, The Art Students League, The Salmagundi Club, The Pen and Brush Club, The Architectural League, The American Watercolor Society, and many other art societies.

Mora won three medals at National Academy competitions, and he also won medals at the St. Louis World's Fair Exhibition in 1904, and at the Panama-American Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915.

He was a popular teacher of figural drawing and painting, known as "Life Classes."  He taught at William Merritt Chase's Chase School of Art, the renamed New York School of Art, at the Art Students' League, the Art School at the Ethical Culture Society, and the Grand Central School of Art.

Mora's first mural was commissioned by the trustees of the Lynn, MA Public Library in 1900.  He also painted the dome of the Missouri State House, St. Louis in 1904, panels for Columbia College in 1909, murals and portraits for the Governor's Mansion of New Jersey in 1911 and a monumental mural for The Red Cross in 1919 in collaboration with Major Joseph Kitchell.  In 1937 he created the mural "Our Christian Era" for Dunn & Bradstreet for the 1939 Worlds Fair, as a commentary about wars waged among nations.

Mora was a prolific illustrator, often winning cover competitions. His illustrations appeared in Harper's Magazines, Collier's, The Century, The New York Tribune (now the NY Times), Red Cross Magazine, and many other publications.

Mora painted posthumous portraits of President Warren Harding and Andrew Carnegie, and dozens of eminent Americans and their children.

In 1912 Mora bought 28 acres in the Litchfield Hills, Gaylordsville, CT, where he and his wife Sonia completed their summer home and studio in 1922.  Their only child, Rosemary Mora, was born in 1918 in New York City.  Sophia Mora died suddenly in 1931 in Danbury Hospital, CT.

Mora 's second wife was May Safford, the widow of Ray Safford, an officer and director of Scribners Publishing Company.

Luis Mora died at age 64 in June 1940 at May's apartment.

Today F. Luis Mora's paintings are held by thirty-four major art museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian Museum, The Newark Museum, The Hood Museum (Dartmouth University), The San Diego Art Museum, The Butler Museum of American Art, and The National Gallery of Canada.

Written and submitted July 2008 by Lynne Pauls Baron, author of F. Luis Mora: America's First Hispanic Master

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, IV
F. Luis Mora was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, to Domingo Mora, a noted sculptor from Catalonia, and Laura Gaillard, a cultured French woman originally from the Bordeaux region of France. Laura Gaillard Mora had two sisters, Ernestina and Gabriella, who married into the Bacardi family, famous for its rum. Mora was close to the Bacardi family all of his life.[1] He had a younger brother, Joseph Jacinto "Jo" Mora, who would go on to become a noted sculptor, photographer and author in California.

The Moras left Uruguay during an insurgency in 1877, when they went to Catalonia. In 1880, they arrived in New York City, and quickly relocated to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, where Domingo Mora accepted a position with the A.H. White Terra Cotta Company, which was renamed The Perth Amboy Terra Cotta Company. The family would later relocate to Allston, Massachusetts (near Boston), where Domingo Mora had sculpture commissions. Mora graduated from Allston High School, and stated in a later interview that he remembered the school fondly. During the Economic Crash of 1893, they all went back to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, which remained Mora's home base all of his life.

While he was a child, Mora's father oversaw his early education in the arts, and young Luis produced hundreds of drawings and watercolors. He was a precocious young artist, drawing historical scenes and scenes of his contemporary environs. At the age of fifteen Mora enrolled in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he studied under the American Impressionists Edmund Charles Tarbell and Frank Weston Benson. In 1892, Mora went on to complete his education at the Art Students League of New York, studying with Henry Siddons Mowbray. By 1892, he was also receiving commissions for illustrations in popular magazines of the era. His formal art education was complete in 1893, when he was just 19 years old.

In 1896 when he was 22 years old, Mora traveled to Europe with his mother, his third trip to Europe. The two visited family in Barcelona and then headed to Madrid, where Mora coincidentally saw William Merritt Chase in the Museo del Prado. It was there, alongside Chase, that Mora became inspired by the art of Diego Velázquez and other Spanish Old Masters. Over the course of many visits to the Prado, Mora practiced and refined his technique by painting copies of Velasquez's works.[2]

In 1900, Mora married the daughter of the mayor of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Sophia ("Sonia") Brown Compton, who was his childhood sweetheart. She encouraged his easel painting, and he set forth on a successful career.

Out of Town Trolley by MoraIn 1904 Mora was voted an Associate member of the National Academy of Design, and was elected a full member in 1906, probably its first Hispanic member. He was also voted as a member to 15 other art societies. Mora won numerous medals and awards within the New York artistic community, including the Rothschild Prize, the Carnegie Prize, the Shaw Purchase Prize at the Salmagundi Club; and in 1915 he won a gold medal at the Panama Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco.

Mora taught illustration and life classes at both William Merritt Chase's Chase School of Art (renamed the New York School of Art in 1898, later to become Parsons) and the Art Students League. Among his students was Georgia O'Keeffe, who studied with him between 1907 and 1908.[3] During this time Mora also embarked upon a successful and prolific career as an illustrator, producing work for several books and publications, including Harper's Weekly, Scribner's, The Century, Collier's, Sunday Magazine, and Ladies' Home Journal. Additionally, during World War I Mora was one of several illustrators who volunteered to create motivational World War I posters for the Third and Fourth Liberty Loan Boards, U.S. Committee on Public Information.[4]

In addition to his success as an easel painter and illustrator, Mora became a well known muralist. His first mural, in 1900, was a commission for the Lynn Public Library in Lynn, Massachusetts. Following that, Mora received a commission for the Missouri State Building at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (also known as the St. Louis World's Fair)in 1904. He continued to receive commissions, including murals for Columbia College, the Governor's Mansion of New Jersey, the Red Cross, The Town Club and Bar in Manhattan, the 1939 New York World's Fair, and in the Sears family (Sears & Roebuck) country home in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Mora was also a successful portraitist who counted Andrew Carnegie among his subjects. After at least one attempt by another artist, Mora was selected by the Fine Arts Commission to paint a posthumous portrait of President Warren G. Harding.[5] That portrait remains on permanent display in the White House. He painted portraits of Society matrons and their children, prominent physicians and attorneys; and around 1915 he painted a series of portraits of actresses and dancers, including Isadora Duncan.

Mora would return to Spain frequently throughout his career, and he had at least two extended stays when he painted. During 1905, he rented a studio in Madrid from which to work, and in 1909 he and Sonia spent an entire year abroad when he took a studio in Seville.

He and Sonia bought land in Gaylordsville, Connecticut in 1913, where he painted an array of easel paintings of everyday life in the countryside. On July 22, 1918, Mora's daughter, Rosemary, was born. She became his constant subject, and in 1921 he had a solo exhibition at the venerable William Macbeth Gallery, entitled "An American Summer," with many watercolors picturing toddler Rosemary. In 1923, he completed his summer home and studio; and in 1924, Mora was a co-founder of the Kent Art Association in Connecticut. In 1927, Mora had a solo exhibition at the Buenos Aires Museo de Bellas Artes (Argentina), which received glowing reviews in The New York Times.

In 1931, Mora's beloved wife, Sonia, died suddenly of food poisoning. A few months later, he took Rosemary out of school and went to live with his brother, Jo Mora, on the Monterey Peninsula. He soon returned to New York in 1932 to marry a former portrait sitter and wealthy widow, May Safford. Mora was 58 years old, and May was 53 and had a grown daughter who was already married. Although he continued to exhibit, he won no further medals and few, if any, of his easel paintings were selling. Because of the Great Depression, he also suffered a dearth of portrait commissions, and his illustrations became few. Sadly, May did not get along with Rosemary; and Mora sent Rosemary to expensive boarding schools, further compromising his financial situation. Mora gradually ran out of money, and in 1939 he rented his beloved Gaylordsville property to strangers.

Mora died on June 5, 1940, in May's elegant apartment in New York. He was 64, just six weeks before his 65th birthday.


Biography from Jeffrey Morseburg
Francis Luis Mora was one of the most versatile early 20th Century American painters.  He was an easel painter who did formal portraits, a muralist, as well as a painter of allegorical scenes and lush nudes.  Mora also produced a large body of work devoted to romantic Spanish subjects that reveal the influence of Ignacio Zuloaga Zabaleta (1870-1945), one of the great Spanish masters of the 20th century. Finally, Mora was also an excellent painter of plein-air landscapes and a well-recognized illustrator.

Mora was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1874 to a Spanish father, the Catlan sculptor Domingo Mora and Laura Gaillard, who was from a highly cultured French Basque family.  In 1880, when Uruguay was struck by civil unrest, the Mora family moved to the United States, settling in New Jersey where Domingo Mora took a job designing architectural terra cotta.

Luis Mora grew up in New Jersey and Massachusetts and began his studies with his father, who first taught him to draw and the precocious young man drew and painted ceaselessly.  At fifteen he enrolled in the famous Boston Museum School where his art improved rapidly and the young talent was illustrating professionally by the age of eighteen.  Mora studied with the figurative painters Frank Benson and Edmund Tarbell in Boston and then with H. Siddons Mowbray at New York's famous Art Students League.

He was under the thrall of Spanish painting from early in his career, and he made many trips to Spain to view and copy the masterpieces at the Prado and to paint with the prominent Spanish artists of the day.  Like many painters of his era, the works of the Spanish Baroque painter Diego Valesquez were a major influence on the course of Mora's art.

In 1900, he married Sophia Brown Compton, who was to prove to be a great asset to his career.  By 1904 he was elected as an Associate Member of the National Academy of Design, and in 1906, he was made a full academician.

He began his career as a muralist in 1900 and then decorated the Missouri pavilion for the 1904 St. Louis World Fair.  As Mora's career advanced, he began to earn important portrait commissions including the dancer Isadora Duncan and President Warren G. Harding.  During the First World War, he did a series of paintings dedicated to France, which was then America's ally.  By the 1920s, the art world began to change, and there was less demand for the works of traditional painters, even ones as talented as Mora.  The artist's life took a turn for the worse when his wife died in 1931, and the Great Depression made life even more difficult for an artist who relied on commissions and the sales of paintings.  Mora married a wealthy widow May Safford in 1932, and eventually passed away in her New York apartment in 1940.

Jeffrey Morseburg
copyright 2008

Biography from Taylor | Graham
Francis Luis Mora was one of the better-known American artists of late 19th and early 20th centuries.  His illustrations were found in magazines and periodicals such as Harper's Weekly, Scribner's and Century Magazine.  In 1903, with Robert Henri, Mora taught a class at Bayport on the South Shore and another class at Good Ground in 1904.  Both classes were identified as continuations of Chase's Shinnecock School on Long Island.

As well as teaching these classes, Mora also taught and exhibited extensively at the Art Students League of New York.

Born in Uruguay in 1874, he moved to America with his family when he was a child.  His father, Domingo Mora, was a well-known Spanish artist who gave his son his early artistic training.  Mora also attended the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School where he studied drawing and painting under Frank Benson and Edmund Trabell.  Later he studied under H. Siddens Mowbray at the Art Students League in New York City.

As did most promising artists of the time, Mora traveled to Europe to study the great paintings of the Old Masters.  The influence of the Spanish Masters, especially Velazquez, is evident in Mora's choice of subject matter and style throughout his career.  "Perhaps it is these very conflicting conditions in the life of Mr. Luis Mora that have evolved the unusual quality of his art, an art essentially Spanish in subject and feeling and wholly modern and American in expression…(Craftsm, 17:402)."

Over two hundred of Mora's sketchbooks are conserved at the Archives of American Art.  The particular sketchbooks from which the exhibited drawings are derived can be dated back to the early 20th century when Mora resided in Gaylordsville, Connecticut, New York City, and briefly in Carmel, California.

Mora was also commissioned to paint the portraits of Andrew Carnegie and President Warren G. Harding, both of which hang in the White House.

Butler Institute of American Art, Ohio
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Academy of Design, New YOrk
National Gallery of Canada
Newark Museum, New Jersey
Oakland Museum, California
Toldedo Museum, Ohio
White House, Washington, D. C.

Art Institute of Chicago, 1902-1936
National Academy of Design, 1901-1941
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1898-1913

Allied Artists of America
American Federation of Arts
American Watercolor Society
Architectural League of New York
Art Students League of New York
Ceramic Society
National Academy of Design
National Arts Club
National Association of Portrait Painters
New York Water Color Club
Salmagundi Club
Society of American Etchers
Society of Illustrators

Biography from Caldwell Gallery Hudson
Francis Luis Mora was the son of the Spanish sculptor Domingo Mora and studied under his father before attending the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School and the Art Students League.

Mora was an illustrator and muralist whose work reflected a blend of Spanish and Modern American influence. By the age of 18 Mora was illustrating leading periodicals. Two years later he began exhibiting his work, and in 1900 he was commissioned to paint a mural for the public library in Lynn, MA. Mora also painted a mural of the Michigan State Building for the St. Louis Exposition.

His paintings usually depicted leisurely life, figures, interiors and landscapes. Mora worked in oil, watercolor, charcoal and pastel. He painted the portrait of President Warren Harding, which still hangs in the White House.

He had a very successful career as an artist and teacher. He taught classes at the Art Students League, Grand Central School of Art and New York School of Art.

Mora died in 1940.

Biography from Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site
Francis Luis Mora was a painter, illustrator, muralist, etcher and teacher who was born on July 27, 1874 in Montivideo, Uruguay.  He was the son of the famed Spanish painter and sculptor Domingo Mora and a French mother, Laura Laillard Mora.  His early life was spent in Uruguay, South America.  His parents brought him to the United States; where his father taught art at Perth Amboy, New Jersey; Boston and New York City.

Mora's art career was encouraged and fostered by his father.  Mora was educated at Manning's Seminary in Perth Amboy, New Jersey and public schools in New York City and Boston.  He was an art pupil of his father, of Henry Siddons Mowbray at the Art Students League in New York, and of the School of Boston Museum of Fine Arts under Frank Weston Benson and Edmund Charles Tarbell.  He later made various trips abroad to study the works of the old masters.
Beginning in 1892 Mora was an illustrator for leading magazines.  During his long diverse career, he was best known as an illustrator, a muralist and portrait artist in both watercolor and oil, yet he also did etchings and sculptures.  By the time he was eighteen years of age, Mora was doing illustrations for many of the leading magazines and periodicals of the day.  His career was maturing early.  By the next year he was included in major fine art exhibitions.  His first important mural commission was in 1900.

Mora eventually taught painting at the Art Students League, the Art School Grand Central and New York Schools of Art in New York City.  In 1904 he became an associate member of the National Academy of Design and two years later he was elected a full member.  He spent most of his life in New York City and in Gaylordsville, Connecticut, with occasional trips west to gather material for his Indian and western scene paintings.

Enjoying the outdoors, which he loved to paint, he also fished, ice skated and rode horseback.  He was married twice and had a daughter, Rosemary, by his first wife.  His older brother, Joseph Jacinto Mora, also was a noted southwestern painter, sculptor and spent time conducting ethnological studies of Indians in the West around 1900.

Though no additional information has been found, Mora is said to have authored a book, Indian Family, which is in the Harmsen collection.    During his career, Mora developed a unique style of art that was both Spanish and modern American in flavor and technique.  He died on June 5, 1940 in New York City.


Dawdy, Doris Ostrander.  Artists of the American West:  A Biographical Dictionary.  [1974] 3 vols.  Chicago: Swallow Press.  1985.

Falk, Peter Hastings.  Who Was Who in American Art.  Connecticut: Sound View Press.  1985.

Fielding, Mantle.  Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers.  Ed. by Glenn B. Optiz.  New York: Apollo Book.  1986.

Harmsen, Dorothy.  American Western Art:  A collection of One Hundred Twenty-Five Western Paintings and Sculpture with Biographies of the Artists.  Denver, Colorado: Harmsen Publishing Company.  1977.

Samuels, Peggy and Harold.  Samuels' Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West.  New Jersey: Castle.  1985.

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About  Francis Mora

Born:  1874 - Montevideo, Uruguay
Died:   1940 - New York City
Known for:  figure, portrait, mural paintings, illustrations