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Charles Higgins 'Pic'

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Charles Samson Higgins (1893-1980) was an artist and writer, who painted under the pseudonym ‘Pic’ and wrote poetry using the pseudonym ‘Iain Dall’. His art was characterised by a fantastical and faux-naïve style, evoking dreams and memories in a manner that was at once mysterious and humorous.


Higgins was born in Argentina to Scottish parents. The family returned to the UK during his childhood, where he would train as an engineer. He fought in Gallipoli in the First World War where he was wounded on the 15th August 1915. This experience would inspire his written piece ‘Sulva Moon’.

Shortly after the war, he began writing and producing collections of poetry, including ‘Noah’s Wife’ in 1925 (B. Blackwell, Oxford) and later ‘Sun Before Seven (Reminiscences of Childhood)’ in 1936 with an introduction by Walter de la Mare (Thomas Nelson & Sons, London). He began painting in 1928, following the influence of his wife, the portrait painter Kate Olver.

His work was soon exhibited at the celebrated Wertheim Gallery, London, run by Lucy Wertheim, in 1933. Wertheim was a supporter of Modern art, promoting the careers of Christopher Wood and Frances Hodgkins, and providing a space for younger artists and those outside the academic system. The brightly coloured, anecdotal style of Higgins’s early work was well in keeping with other artists exhibited by the gallery, such as Kenneth Hall, Henry Stockley and Kathleen Walne.

From the 1940s his work became darker and more fantastical, placing figures based on memory, myth and history in empty abstracted landscapes. These images have the effect of scenes half-remembered and Pic utilised painterly and surrealist techniques such as mono-printing and decalcomania to create these dream-like realms. Many works from the 1940s were painted on found pieces of wood, the artist working with the forms and knots of the material to create images. Titles were anecdotal and elliptical, often short phrases or pieces of dialogue. In his later career the artist would create hundreds of ‘Minutiae’, tiny works on found paper or even metal razor boxes, small in scale but with the same completeness of vision.

During the 1940s Pic exhibited with artist and writer Jack Bilbo’s Modern Art Gallery, London. Later in the decade and in the 1950s he had solo shows with Gimpel Fils Gallery, London, with Piotr Potworowski in 1954, Georges Braque in 1955 and Austin Cooper in 1959. He also exhibited as part of group shows with Arthur Jeffress Gallery. His 1947 show with Gimpel Fils included a catalogue essay by Maurice Collis. According to the artist’s obituary in The Times, the collector Alphonse Kann declared Pic was his choice amongst English painters when he lived there from 1938 until his death.

Works by the artist are in the collection of Leicester Museum & Art Gallery.

Published works[edit]

  • 1917 ‘Songs of the Twilight and other poems’ (Bickers, London)
  • 1925 ‘Noah's Wife’, Illustrated by Doris Palmer (B. Blackwell, Oxford)
  • 1931 ‘Here are Stones: An Account of a Journey to the Aran Islands’, written and illustrated by Ian Dall (Desmond Harmsworth, London)
  • 1934 ‘Singing Waters (Poems)’ (C. W. Daniel Co., London)
  • 1936 ‘Sun Before Seven (Reminiscences of Childhood)’, written and illustrated by Ian Dall (Thomas Nelson & Sons, London)

Solo Exhibitions[edit]

  • 1933 Wertheim Gallery, London
  • 1939 Matthiesen Gallery, London
  • 1943 The Modern Art Gallery, London
  • 1944 The Modern Art Gallery, London
  • 1945 The Modern Art Gallery, London
  • 1947 Gimpels Fils, London
  • 1948 Gimpels Fils, London
  • 1954 Gimpels Fils, London
  • 1955 Gimpels Fils, London
  • 1959 Gimpels Fils, London
  • 1960 Centaur Gallery, London
  • 1961 Centaur Gallery, London
  • 1963 Reid Gallery, London
  • 1970 Alwin Gallery, London


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