GEORGE FRANK HIGGINS (AMERICAN, B. 1835) FLORIDA LANDSCAPE PAINTING, oil on artist's board laid on aluminum panel, an evocative scene of a tranquil creek, the sun-dappled banks lined with Spanish Moss-draped trees. Signed "G. F. Higgins" lower right. Housed in a custom bird's eye maple frame. Circa 1875. 10 1/4" x 15 1/4" object. Provenance: From an Alexandria, VA private collection. Catalogue Note: In comparison with other like painters of his generation, relatively little is known about the artist George Frank Higgins (American, b. 1835) though several auction records of his work exist. He is primarily associated with Boston and surrounding areas, and he is documented as exhibiting at the Boston Art Club from 1873 to 1891. What's more, the artist is represented in a number of institutions throughout the country, including the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, Florida, so it is somewhat surprising that such a scant amount of information about Higgins' life is available. What is known about him is interesting, however. For instance, in 1860 at age 25, Higgins is recorded in the U. S. Census for Middlesex County, Massachusetts as living with his parents and working as a "landscape painter", an intriguing occupational designation, likely self-imposed. In the 1880 U. S. Census, still in Middlesex County, Higgins is recorded as living with his wife and elderly parents, though at this point in time he is noted more generally as an "artist", perhaps an indication of his expanding repertoire. Whatever the particulars of his life may be, it is clear that he dedicated himself fully to the pursuit of an artistic vocation and had, at least initially, identified himself primarily as painter of landscapes.
Given his propensity to explore natural subjects, often in the wilderness, Higgins is generally associated with the second generation of the Hudson River Valley School painters, and most of his works depict New England scenes, such as views of the White Mountains or areas of Western Massachusetts. He did, however, travel regularly to the South in the winter, making Florida his destination for extended periods. Like many of his fellow New England artist contemporaries, Higgins was drawn, as David C. Swoyer states in an essay on the subject, to the "idea and idealization of Florida", as a place to discover an Arcadian landscape, untrammeled by the industrial creep of the urbanizing North. In the Sunshine State he was able to paint new scenes in a semi-exotic locale, collaborate with other important artists of the day such as Winslow Homer, Martin Johnson Heade, Frank Shapleigh, and Herman Herzog, and generally escape the brutal New England winters. Higgins seems to have made regular trips to Florida during the fourth quarter of the 19th century and even took pains to announce his arrival, and his services, in local newspapers. One St. Augustine paper, "The Tatler", reported in an 1896 notice that "Mr. George F. Higgins..Boston artist..arrived at the Hotel Punta Gorda on Monday night" and that he had completed "a painting of the quaint dwelling of the oldest Punta Gorda inhabitant...during the week". Other documented Florida scenes by Higgins include "Fishing on the Tomoka" (1876), "The Florida Keys" (1870), "Palm Grove, Florida" (1875), "Florida Cabin Scene" (1870), and "Fishing at Sunset" (1880).
The present example, from a distinguished private collection, is a classic example of the artist's work. The luminous scene, set in an isolated backwater and executed in an Impressionist style, evokes the best of 19th-century Florida landscape painting and demonstrates the artist's exceptional abilities.
Very good condition overall. Small loss with associated inpainting right edge (affected area approximately 3/4" x 1/2").