Joseph Jacinto Mora Biography

Jo Mora was a true Renaissance man – sculptor, painter, muralist, etcher, illustrator, cartoonist, map-maker, saddle-maker, photographer, author, actor, designer of everything from coins and book-plates to houses – leaving us a remarkable legacy.  He devoted his life to exploration of subjects as diverse as vaqueros, Hopi Kachina figures, the Arizona landscape, and California missions.

Mora was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and was the son of Domingo Mora, a well- known painter and sculptor who brought his family to the United States in the mid 1890s and then became a teacher in New York at the Art Students League.

Joseph and his artist brother Luis Mora (1874-1940) grew up being much influenced by the creative atmosphere of their father's studio. Joseph studied at the Pingry Academy in Elizabeth, New Jersey; the Art Students League with his father in New York City; and then in Boston at the Cowles Art School, and with William Merritt Chase. He worked as a staff artist and cartoonist for the "Boston Herald" and then in 1894, when he was age 18, took a four-year horseback sketching and writing tour of Mexico, the American Southwest, and Texas. On this trip, he worked as a cow puncher on ranches along the way to earn money.  In 1903, he headed west again and joined his parents who were living in San Jose, California. In 1904, he returned to Arizona and New Mexico and lived with Hopi and Navajo tribes, learning their languages and painting depictions of their ceremonies, especially the Kachina ceremonial dances.

One of the results of his western travels was a series of maps/cartes of the national parks that were made into posters. In the 1930s, the maps sold for 25 cents each and were distributed through souvenir shops at the parks. He also painted a watercolor series, "Horsemen of the West" and wrote two books, "Trail Dust and Saddle Leather" and "Californios".

In 1907, he married and bought a ranch in the Santa Clara Valley where he and his father worked together on sculpture commissions until the father died in 1911. In 1914, Mora and his wife moved to San Francisco, and then in 1920 to Carmel, where he completed his most famous work, the Father Serra group of sculpted figures that was placed at the San Carlos Mission.  Joseph Mora died in Pebble Beach on October 10, 1947.

Member: Bohemian Club; Family Club (SF); National Sculpture Society; SFAA; Carmel AA; Carmel Arts & Crafts Club

Exhibited: NAD; PAFA; Alaska-Yukon Expo (Seattle), 1909; Bohemian Club, 1913, 1914; Vickery, Atkins, & Torrey (SF), 1913 (solo); Calif. Artists, Golden Gate Park Museum, 1915; PPIE, 1915 (member of Int’l Jury of Awards); SFAA, 1915-16; CPLH, 1929; Calif.-Pacific Int’l Expo (San Diego), 1935; GGIE, 1939; Smithsonian Inst., 1979 (solo); Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art, retrospective which included sculpture and architectural adornments/1998

In: Arlington Elementary School, San Jose, CA (sundial); Portland (OR) Post Office and Court House (architectural sculpture); Lobby of Examiner Bldg (SF); Canterbury Hotel, SF (murals in lobby); Golden Gate Park (Cervantes); San Rafael, CA (Doughboy); Bohemian Club (Bret Harte Memorial); State Chamber of Commerce and Stock Exchange Bldg, SF (pediments); Pacific Mutual Bldg (LA); Scottish Rite Temple, San Jose (figures); Monterey County Court House (Salinas); Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey (La Novia); Harrison Library (Carmel); CHS.

Source: Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"; essay by Betty Hoag McGlynn/Jo Mora:Spokesman for the Old West.