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.
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.
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. 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 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.
In 1931, Mora’s beloved wife, Sonia, died suddenly of food poisoning. A few months later, he took his daughter 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.