VICTOR HIGGINS (American, 1884-1949)
    Trout and Creel
    Oil on canvas laid on panel
    19-5/8 x 15-5/8 inches (49.8 x 39.7 cm)
    Signed and inscribed lower right: Victor Higgins / ...SK / J.H.R.


    Owings-Dewey Fine Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    Perhaps doing a Still-Life is most satisfactory. Still Lifes are very patient. They stand a lot of pushing around without complaining. And they do not talk back while the painter is thinking of some quality of design or painting. And they do not blow sand or dust into the canvas or blow it down while the painter is doing something else with both hands full. And they do not borrow their pay in advance and not come back. (Victor Higgins, letter to Paul Grafe, 1946, Joan Higgins Reed Archives, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe)

    Victor Higgins' innovative still lifes demonstrate his radical shift to modernism during the 1930s. Heavily influenced by Paul C├ęzanne's geometric landscapes and fellow Taos painters John Marin's and Andrew Dasburg's Cubist compositions, Higgins began experimenting with his still lifes, transforming them from traditional three-dimensional arrangements into "collages" of flattened, individuated objects. Often he employed photography to help him visualize these objects -- commonly Pueblo blankets and pottery, flowers, and pumpkins and gourds -- as isolated, two-dimensional forms. Also moved by Jay Hambridge's 1926 The Elements of Dynamic Symmetry, Higgins insisted upon organizing these objects with painstaking precision in order to balance shapes, textures, proportions, and colors. For instance, background walls typically appear as a series of cubistic, rafter-like forms that relate to angular, folded textiles on tabletops.

    A stunning example of Higgins' modernist aesthetic, Trout and Creel is one of only a handful of his known fishing still lifes. Next to mechanics, fly fishing was Higgins' favorite pastime, and he and Walter Ufer made regular trips to the Hondo River north of Taos, competing over who could catch the largest trout. Trout and Creel is a more colorful and complex version of his Seven Trout and a Loaf of Bread (c. 1932-35, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico), where the fish seem to slide down a tilted tabletop.

    In Trout and Creel, four rainbow or brown trout lie upon a white cloth, the cloth upon a creel, or small wicker basket, and finally the creel upon a rock and pine branches. Higgins uses diagonal lines and angular shapes to energize the composition, and he erases one-point perspective, turning recessional space into a vertical rectangle of overlapping, abstracted objects. He masterfully renders textures -- prickly pine needles, woven wicker, and shiny fish scales -- and he carefully balances the directional movement of objects, as well as their tones -- darker fish and "background" nature sandwiching lighter cloth and creel. Higgins' dynamic brushwork also juxtaposes opposites, for example, impastoed passages in the green background versus thin, incised lines protruding like quills from the creel. Trout and Creel presents at once solid geometric scaffolding and a lively, topsy-turvy assortment of objects, underscoring that "the still life remained Higgins' experimental laboratory" (D. Porter, Victor Higgins: An American Master, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1991, p. 237).

    Condition Report*:

    Light surface grime; otherwise, no visible condition issues. Framed Dimensions 25 X 21 Inches

    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    May, 2015
    2nd Saturday
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