Loren Mozley, painter of southwestern landscapes, was born in Brookport, Illinois, on October 2, 1905, to Charlie Almus and Ella (Phillips) Mozley. His father, a country physician, moved his family to New Mexico in 1906, and Mozley grew up in lumber and mining camps and pueblos. He was initially introduced to the materials of oil painting by one of his father's Navajo patients and began to paint at age eleven, after his family settled in Albuquerque. Following his graduation from Albuquerque High School in 1923 he entered the University of New Mexico. During the summers he worked as a secretary for Mabel Dodge Luhan in Taos, where he came into contact with members of the artists' colony active at that time. In 1926 he left college to move to Taos. For the next two years he painted, exhibited his work at the Harwood Gallery, and befriended artists Andrew Dasburg, Dorothy Brett, John Ward Lockwood, Kenneth Adams, and John Marin, among others. From 1929 to 1931 Mozley studied at the Colarossi and Chaumière academies in Paris, copied paintings at the Louvre, and traveled in Holland, Italy, and southern France. He returned to America penniless in 1931 and spent the next four years in New York City, working as an engraver for part of the time and painting when he could. During this time he befriended Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Georgia O'Keeffe. In 1935 he returned to Taos, where he married Wilma Genevieve Meyer on December 15; they had no children. For the next few years Mozley worked to establish a career as a painter and teacher. He received WPA commissions to paint murals for the Federal Building in Albuquerque and the post office in Clinton, Oklahoma; exhibited his work as a member of the Taos Heptagon, an artists' gallery group; and published an article on his friend John Marin in the Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art (1936). In 1936 he began teaching in the art department at the University of New Mexico, and in the summers of 1937 and 1938 he served as director of the Field School of Art at Taos. He also served as a member of the board of the University of New Mexico Harwood Foundation from 1937 to 1938. He exhibited his work at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and the Denver Art Museum in 1938.
Mozley left New Mexico in August 1938 to help Ward Lockwood organize the new art department at the University of Texas in Austin. The two men put their jobs on the line by insisting on the necessity of nude models for life-drawing classes and worked to bridge the gap between academia and the larger arts community by hiring artists as teachers, bringing art exhibitions to the campus, and serving on juries throughout the state. During the next few years Mozley completed a post office mural in Alvin, Texas, lectured in Texas museums, and served as acting chairman of the department of art from 1942 to 1945 and as president of the Texas Fine Arts Association (1945–46). His work was exhibited regionally and began to win recognition: he received the Cokesbury Prize for an etching entered in the Dallas Museum Print Show (1943) and won first prize and the San Antonio Art League prize for paintings entered in Texas General exhibitions (1942 and 1945).
A Christmas trip to Mexico City in 1938 sparked Mozley's interest in Latin-American art, and in 1940 he taught a course with Mexican critic Adolfo Best-Maugard in the fledgling Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas. As a member of the University of Texas Field School at the National University of Mexico from 1943 to 1945 Mozley taught courses on Latin-American art and earned the rank of profesor extraordinario. During the 1950s and 1960s he traveled extensively in South America photographing Pre-Columbian and Colonial sites and collections and establishing contacts with Latino artists, art schools, and museums. In 1964 he returned to Europe, where he made a thorough tour of Spain and briefly toured France, Italy, England, and Belgium. He visited Spain again in 1969 and 1973.
Mozley served on the first Faculty Senate and as secretary of the Executive Committee of the Latin American Institute at the University of Texas (1953–55). He spent four summers teaching at the University of Southern California in the early 1950s. In 1958–59 he served as chairman of the Department of Art at UT. He published several articles on Latin-American artists in the 1940s and 1950s. He continued to paint and exhibited his work throughout the state, receiving the Purchase Prize (Gouache) at the Texas Fine Arts Annual Exhibition in 1959 and the San Antonio Art League Purchase Prize at the Twenty-fifth Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture Exhibition (1963). On the national level Mozley participated in two competitive exhibitions (1948) and the Texas Contemporary Artists exhibition (1952) at the Knoedler Galleries in New York City; exhibited his work at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (1948, 1949, 1951) and at the San Francisco Museum of Art (1956); and in 1968 was one of four Texas artists whose work was featured in A Particular Portion of Earth, held in Washington, D.C. A retrospective of his career was mounted by a Dallas gallery in 1967.
Mozley painted scenes from the American Southwest, Mexico, South America, and Spain in a methodical, geometric style, using a palette dominated by dusky purples and maroons, brightened with accents of gold, green, olive, and blue. Oil paints were his primary medium, although he also experimented with watercolors, lithography, and graphic techniques. He described himself as a "child of the Cubist order," but the work of Andrew Dasburg, an influential Taos painter who applied Cézannesque geometry to his southwestern landscapes, was a more direct influence on his style. The sensuous curves and light and dark contrasts of Adobe Buttresses (1940) suggest the influence of Georgia O'Keeffe. In some of his most powerful early works Mozley used objects such as roses, crowns of thorns, and bird nests to embody evocative scenes such as Tragic Landscape (1944) and The Hunter (1946). In Winter Fields (1948) the artist arranged two dead magpies and some milkweed pods on a snowy plain girded by mountains; he regarded the resulting stark study of contrasts as one of his best works. Other notable paintings include Big Pecans (1952), a masterly study of light and shadow that verges on abstraction, and the watercolor Broken Cypress (1956), painted on the Pedernales River from the vantage point of a fallen tree's stump. Mozley's later works were more scenic and descriptive and often included people and architecture. His complex compositions filled the picture plane and were sometimes difficult to read. In works such as Rocky Hillside (1966) and Market of San Roque at Quito (1963–64) the geometry was used as a decorative motif rather than a structural element. The arrangements of shells, dried plants, butterflies, and skulls seen in such works as The Artist's Cupboard (1963–64), which the artist called "conceits," lacked the vigor of his earlier symbolic paintings. His scenes of Spanish villages and marketplaces, however, were imbued with a lyric, romantic air new to his work. Mozley's style followed a progression untouched by passing fads; his work stands as a testimony to his meticulous craftsmanship and precision. In 1967 the artist noted, "I try my level best every time I pick up my brush to be a decent and skillful craftsman, a painter." Perhaps his greatest contribution was his insistence that students learn the basic techniques of their craft in an age when abstract, conceptual, and performance art techniques were in vogue.
Mozley retired from the University of Texas with the rank of professor emeritus in 1975. Three years later his career was commemorated by a retrospective exhibition and catalogue organized by the University of Texas Art Gallery. Mozley died on September 21, 1989. His work is in the collection of the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery in Austin, the Old Jail Art Center in Albany, and the Witte Museum in San Antonio.