The Life and Times of Jo Mora: Iconic Artist of the American West, by Peter Hiller, Gibbs Smith, Layton, Utah, 2021, $30

Joseph Jacinto “Jo” Mora (1876–1947) was more than just a Western artist. In addition to rendering paintings, sculptures, murals, cartoons, illustrations, pictorial maps and photographs, he was also a historian and writer. His books include Trail Dust and Saddle Leather (1946) and the posthumously published Californios: The Saga of the Hard-Riding Vaqueros, America’s First Cowboys (1949), which have become go-to sources for researchers. Mora worked as a cowboy and spent years with the Navajo (Diné) and Hopi nations in Arizona. Undoubtedly, he is among the most underappreciated Western artists (see Art of the West, P. 26), though Peter Hiller intends to change that.

“His range of talents was astounding,” the author writes. “He could produce intimately written and illustrated birthday and Christmas cards for his family, then turn around and create heroic-scale sculptures that depicted historical figures of the West, some of which reside in museums
to this day.” Hiller spent more than a quarter century researching Mora. The result is a richly detailed account of Mora’s life, often told by the artist himself, complemented by stunning reproductions of his artwork, many in full color. “Through his art,” Hiller writes, “Jo Mora left an enduring legacy of his love of the Monterey community, the county of Monterey, the state of California and the American West.”

Fans of Mora will be thrilled with this comprehensive biography, while those unfamiliar with him will be thankful for this splendid introduction.

—Johnny D. Boggs

This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something through our site, we might earn a commission.