Woman gathering water in the placita signed 'Victor Higgins' (lower right) oil on canvas 16 x 20in overall: 22 1/2 x 26 1/2in
Provenance Estate of Sylvia McLaughlin, Berkeley, California.
Born in 1884 in Shelbyville, Indiana, it was clear from a young age that Victor Higgins would not follow in his father's footsteps and become a farmer. A chance meeting with an itinerant painter when Higgins was just nine years old set him on his career path. When he was 15, his parents allowed him to leave home and travel to Chicago where he would study and work for the next ten years. From Chicago, Higgins moved to New York where he met Robert Henri and viewed the work of his group, "The Eight", who were setting new bars for progressive American artists. Despite this anti-academic influence, Higgins felt the need to complete a traditional artistic education so from New York he traveled to Europe. Over three years Higgins studied in Paris and Munich and became fast friends with Walter Ufer. Both Higgins and Ufer enjoyed the patronage of Carter H. Harrison Jr., then mayor of Chicago, who helped fund their studies. Significantly, Higgins returned to New York in time to see the 1913 Armory Show. Higgins paintings were influenced throughout his career by the modern and stylistic innovations on view at this seminal show.
Victor Higgins made his first trip to Taos through a commission from Harrison in 1914. Taos and broadly New Mexico proved to be Higgin's artistic muse. Higgins himself answered the question of why Taos in New Mexico Magazine in 1932: "Because of the light, there is the best light here to be found anywhere. There is more color in the landscape and the people than elsewhere." Joining the Taos Society of Artists in 1917, Higgins remained a member through its eventual disbandment in 1927.
During his time in Taos, Higgins' palette broadened from darker colors to include a range of blue, green, and whites. His compositions were reduced in complexity to emphasize color and texture. In the present lot we see Higgins working within his mature artistic vision. This painting fulfills Higgins' own requirement for a modern painter, to "design through color harmonies". The center of the painting is largely composed of a myriad of white tones of the adobe. The well, the oven, the adobe, the sky and even the figure are reduced to their essential components. The textures of the covered well, the walls of the adobe and the pueblo oven are crafted with thick unflinching brushwork, with the changes in the direction of the brush strokes emphasizing the change in light within the composition. The blue shawl and the white dress of the woman are likewise composed of the same loaded brushstrokes. Higgins paints the sky as a subtle spectrum of blue tones with super-imposed gray clouds which again make use of contrasting impasto. Woman gathering water in the placita offers us an image of Higgins' vision of the Taos light.
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