Victor William Higgins (1884-1949)
Property Belonging to a Distinguished California Collection
Victor William Higgins (1884-1949)

Going Home

Victor William Higgins (1884-1949)
Going Home
signed ‘Victor Higgins--’ (lower right)
oil on board
24 x 27 in. (61 x 68.6 cm.)
Painted circa 1918-20.
Melvin Weimer, Colorado Springs, Colorado, by 1991.
Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
D.A. Porter, Victor Higgins: An American Master, exhibition catalogue, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1991, p. 258, no. 13a, illustrated.
Gerald Peters Gallery, The Taos Society of Artists: Masters & Masterworks, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1998, p. 83, illustrated.
Kleinburg, Canada, McMichael Canadian Art Collection; Vancouver, Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery; Colorado Springs, Colorado, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; Charleston, South Carolina, Gibbes Museum of Art, The Informing Spirit: Art of the American Southwest and West Coast Canada, 1925-1945, January 30, 1994-March 26, 1995, pp. 29, 107, 172, no. 10, illustrated.

Lot Essay

Depicting a pair of shrouded figures walking along a path towards a backdrop of rolling mountains, Victor Higgins’ Going Home features the artist’s characteristic bold design and painterly style while also expressing his deep reverence for the New Mexican landscape and its native inhabitants.
Born on an Indiana farm in 1884, Higgins moved to Chicago at the young age of fifteen to study at the Art Institute before studying in New York under the famed artist and teacher, Robert Henri. Higgins immediately learned from Henri the importance of form and composition. “It is not surprising that Higgins would be drawn to the fifty-one-year-old artist who had already established himself as an important American painter...Both artists used broad, vigorous brushstrokes, and dramatic lighting, allowing the sitter to emerge from a neutral background. Henri's brushstroke, however, was more slashing in character, while Higgins's brush emphasized control in its circular, calculated movements. Henri seemed more interested in the psychological essence of his sitters; Higgins was more concerned with composition, and the quality of pigment on the canvas." (D.A. Porter, Victor Higgins: An American Master, exhibition catalogue, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1991, p. 57)
In his best works, such as Going Home, Higgins demonstrates an extensive knowledge of the most current trends in American and European modernism, perhaps unrivaled by any other artist in his circle of the Taos Society. The 1913 Armory Show had a profound impact on Higgins, as with many young artists, and prompted him to push his painting to a more modern aesthetic. "He developed the so-called Munich style, characterized by its bravura technique. Painting alla prima (literally 'all at once,' not with multiple layers of paint as in studio work), the bold and vigorous handling of the brush, the use of subdued greys, browns and ochres to form color relationships of the greatest refinement and subtlety, are but a few of the prevailing stylistic characteristics associated with the Munich School and with Higgins' early painting style." (Pioneer Artists of Taos, p. 178) As seen in the present work, Higgins navigated the intricacies of post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Symbolism and Expressionism, all in the service of his fascination and reverence for the Southwest.
In Going Home, the artist's advances in composition, representation of light and handling of form are fully realized to render the undulating landscape. Higgins uses the massiveness of the background mountains, as they loom over his native subjects, as a commanding pictorial device. The overall muted palette unifies the figures and landscape, emphasizing the feelings of isolation associated with the Indians’ trying existence in the rapidly changing environment of the American West. The artist described his Native American subjects with admiration as "a people living in an absolutely natural state, entirely independent of all the world. If the rest of humanity were wiped from the earth, they would go ahead just as they are today, self-supporting, self-reliant, simple and competent. They have dignity in spite of their lack of riches and nobility in spite of their humble mode of living. Their architecture is the only naturally American architecture in the nation today. All other styles were borrowed from Europe. Being so completely the product of their surroundings, they give the painter a host of fresh and original ideas." (as quoted in L.M. Bickerstaff, Pioneer Artists of Taos, Denver, Colorado, 1983, pp. 180-81) As evidenced in Going Home, the combination of Higgins’ distinct ability to identify with his Native American subjects, aligned with the foremost Modernist tendencies of his time, offers a rare and magical glimpse of beautiful complexity in the familiar landscape of the American Southwest.

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