Monterey Museum of Art

Monterey, CA




Joe Mora: Artist and Writer


California Carte, 1945, 25 x 19 inches, from the collection of Steve Travaille

A long-awaited major retrospective exhibition of Joseph Jacinto Mora (1876-1947) will be on display at the Monterey Museum of Art from June 27 through September 6, 1998. While many of Jo Mora's public works (mostly murals and sculpture) are permanently displayed in numerous locations throughout the United States, a vast selection of his works, including watercolors, drawings, photographs and more, are in private collections and rarely seen publicly. The museum has been able to draw on these collections to create an exhibition that will demonstrate the astonishing breadth of Mora's artistic talent.

Mora's family moved from Uruguay to the eastern United States when he was a year old. Following in his father's and brother's artistic footsteps, Mora began his career as an artist by assisting them with their work. He later attended two outstanding art schools--the Art Student's League in New York and the Cowles School in Boston - and studied with William Merritt Chase.


Twister, bronze, 9 1/2 x 8 1/4 x 5 inches, Courtesy of Philip and Madalyn Johnson


By the time he was in his mid-twenties, Mora was a successful cartoonist and illustrator. However, in 1903 he left an established career to travel west, beginning a lifelong exploration of the United States. Mora's unending curiosity about people and places, as well as his ability to fit in wherever he traveled, enabled him to see beyond the surface of a place and to imbue his artwork with unique understanding.

Throughout his life, Mora was able to master virtually every artistic medium he attempted. He worked with great success in illustration, drawing, painting, watercolor, sculpture, photography, mapmaking, and other media. He was also a writer and designer of note. Encompassing all aspects of his career, the exhibition is intended to give the public a greater understanding of the breadth of Mora's talents and abilities.

Apart from its artistic merits, Mora's work is valued for its historical significance. As an astute observer, Mora created art that eloquently and accurately described the western land and way of life he admired, whether his subject was vaqueros, Hopi katsina figures, the Arizona landscape, turn-of-the-century Yosemite, or the California missions.

Much of Mora's public work is found in Monterey County, and because of this, the museum has sought to involve other venues in this project. The Monterey History and Art Association and the Harrison Memorial Library in Carmel will create concurrent displays from their Jo Mora collections. Additionally, souvenir maps of Mora's public art will encourage people to explore other locations. A substantial exhibition catalogue, with an essay by California art historian Betty Hoag McGlynn will document the exhibition and add to the growing store of information on this important California artist.

Resource Library editor's note:

Also see the biography of Joseph J. Mora from Jennie V. Cannon: The Untold History of the Carmel and Berkeley Art Colonies, vol. one, East Bay Heritage Project, Oakland, 2012 by Robert W. Edwards


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