Born in Uruguay in 1874, his family moved to America 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.
This captivating portrait features Francis Luis Mora's daughter, Rosemary, wrapped in a beautiful black and red embroidered Spanish shawl. It is the same shawl that his first wife, Sonia, wore to the Spanish Costume Ball at the Arts Students League in 1910. Mora was inspired to then paint his major work titled Spanish Costume Ball at the Art Students League (illustrated on page 141 of F. Luis Mora: America's First Hispanic Master). Mora has paid special attention to the positioning of his daughter's hands and facial expression, and through this has balanced the youth and innocence of this child with the sophistication of the textiles. Mora often used his family members in his works and especially Rosemary.
Not only does Francis Luis Mora revisit the theme of this shawl in other paintings but he also repeats the use of the white shawl in the background. One such painting that contains both of theses elements is Embroidered Patterns, in which he depicts two partially nude females, Sonia and her sister Lola. Mora would also re-examine the black Spanish shawl in the portraits of the dancer, Jeanne Carter.
Deeply inspired by the full-length portraits of Diego Velázquez, Mora loved to explore his Spanish origins in his modern American paintings. Like Velázquez, Mora strove to convey the individual personality of his subjects in his paintings. Although situated in the United States, the artist would frequently incorporate elements, such as this shawl, of Spanish culture and dress into his American surroundings. Spanish Shawls was given by Francis Luis Mora to the parents of Kathyrn Heck, who were the owners of a grocery store next to Mora's residence, and is believed to have been in exchange for groceries. We have designated a circa range of 1926-1928 for the painting, as Rosemary appears to be between the age of eight and ten. As we have seen in his other paintings with the black and red Spanish shawl, Mora liked to feature the women in his life that he deeply cared for in this garment. Francis Luis Mora continually used Rosemary for portraits until his death in 1940.
Collection of Kathyrn Heck, Weston, Connecticut
Gift from the artist to the parents of the above (who were the owners of a grocery store next door to the house of the artist)