William Victor Higgins, the most modern painter of the Taos Society of Artists, came to Taos from Chicago in 1914. Having been born and raised on a small Indiana farm, Higgins found his artistic calling at nine years old when a traveling artist who painted ads on the side of barns introduced the young boy to painting and taught him about museums. This introduction inspired Higgins to save his allowance, and at the age of fifteen he was granted his family’s permission to attend the Chicago Art Institute. While in Chicago, the former city mayor and avid art collector Carter Harrison befriended the budding painter, and generously agreed to support Higgins while he took his studies to Europe. In Paris, Victor met Walter Ufer (another recipient of Carter Harrison’s artistic sponsorship), and the two became fast friends.
After returning to Chicago in 1914, Harrison sent the pair to Taos, NM, for a year in exchange for new works. For Higgins, the move became permanent in 1915, and he would join the fledgling Taos Society of Artists in 1917. While participating in Taos Society group exhibitions, Higgins began to impart a modernist flavor into his paintings, and is credited with bringing modernism to realism. His talent for experimental landscapes garnered him many awards during this time, including: The First Logan Prize at the Art Institute of Chicago, and the First Altman Prize at the National Academy of Design in New York. His primary relationship seemed to be with his painting, although Higgins was briefly married to Sheldon Parsons’ daughter, Sara, and then later to Marion Kooglen McNay of San Antonio, Texas.
It was late in Higgins’ life that he produced what many consider to be his best paintings, a series of oils aptly referred to as “Little Gems.” Working out of the trunk of his car in his signature three piece suit, Higgins painted small landscapes that his good friend and fellow artist Ernest Blumenschein described as “All works of love: love of his simple subjects and of his craftsmanship.”
In 1949, while dining at the home of friends and fellow Taos artists, Thomas and Dorothy Benrimo, Victor Higgins succumbed to a fatal heart attack. He was the last survivor of the first seven Taos Society members, and his passing marked for many the end of a Taos era.