Joseph J. Mora (1876 - 1947) JO Mora

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Devoting his life to exploration of subjects as diverse as vaqueros, Hopi Kachina figures, the Arizona landscape, and California missions, Joseph J. Mora (1876 - 1947), otherwise referred to as JO Mora, also excelled as a writer, photographer, designer, children's book illustrator, and even a map maker.

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.  Mora was only one year old when his family made this move.

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 humorous maps that were spoofs of the national parks and 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 his French Alsatian wife Laura Gaillard, 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.  He finally settled in Carmel, California in 1920 and became a famous photographer, painter, sculptor and book illustrator.  It was here 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.

In 1998, the Monterey Museum of Art held a retrospective of his work which includes sculpture and architectural adornments.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Santa Fe auction catalogue, 11/09/2002
Peter Hassrick, "Drawn to Yellowstone"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"
Peggy and Harold Samuels, "Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"

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