Rio Grande Canyon
Rio Grande Canyon
Watercolor and charcoal on paper
16 1/8 x 21 1/2 inches
Wichita Art Museum, Edmund L. and Faye Davison Collection
Not Currently on Display
About the Artwork
Higgins was the fifth of nine children born to a second-generation Irish farm family in Shelbyville, Indiana. At age 15 Higgins used his childhood savings to buy a train ticket to Chicago where he took on odd jobs to supports his studies at the Chicago Art Institute and the Academy of Fine Arts. His talent and personal charm brought him to the attention of Carter Harrison, ex-mayor of Chicago and noted art collector. Harrison financed four years of European study and travel for Higgins.
In Europe Higgins met Walter Ufer, another protégé of Harrison’s, who would become one of his closest friends. In an effort to continue Higgins’ artistic growth, Harrison sent him on a painting trip to the Southwest and sponsored his work there for some time afterward.
The artist’s first wife Sara Mack described Higgins’ immediate dedication to the New Mexico setting: “In 1914, as soon as he settled in Taos, the rich and subtle colors of New Mexico blossomed on his palette and his canvases. New Mexico’s charm and magnificence instantly cleared his senses of all the mustiness of his long academic training.” Both Ufer and Higgins felt that this remote, primitive land so untouched by the artifice and commercialism of the modern world, presented the perfect stimulus for the creation of a vigorous, truly American art.
Higgins initially worked in a romantic impressionistic style. However, after seeing the expressionistic imagery of John Marin, who visited Taos in 1929, he developed a more abstract style based upon the rectangular brushstrokes of Cézanne and the open fragmented forms of Marin.