Luis Usabal was born on January 1st, 1876. The artist created a substantial career for himself in Spain, Italy, and Germany until the age of 44, when he decided to emigrate to New York. Usabal arrived in New York in 1920, then living at the address 449 W. 23rd Street. Usabal’s work is often credited under the name Luiz Usabal y Hernandez, and the artist became known for his postcard and film poster work. Usabal also worked with a variety of Hollywood actors in the 1920s, painting personal portraits for silent movie stars including Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston, and Olive Borden. In 1922, Usabal began a cartoon series with La Prensa, a Spanish newspaper from New York, aiming to produce cartoons that reflected on current events and Spanish political news.
One of his best known works “Virgo” is currently appraised to be worth over $30,000 by Christies London. Usabal was known for focusing his work on shifting gender dynamics, including a postcard series he created depicting women dancing tango together. In all, Usabal seemed to immigrate to the United States to exploit the greater opportunities as an artist, which appeared to pan out with his Hollywood recognition and artistic success. Despite his assimilation as an artist, his style continued to focus on images and themes from his home of Spain. His work featured on the menu cover art for the renown West Village Spanish restaurant El Chico is a perfect example of this, as it attempts to acknowledge the modern Spaniard while still paying homage to an antiquated image of the “conquistador ” Spaniard. Usabal’s works continuously allude to this change in the image of the Spaniard, as he pushed contemporary standards through his masterful artwork.