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Pablo O’Higgins… another gringo who stuck around

20 January 2005

I don’t know if this artist is even known outside of Mexico. He’s not much known even in Mexico. Pablo O’Higgins (1904-1983), born in Salt Lake City, arrived in Mexico City in 1926. It might make a good story if I could claim he was a Mormon missionary led astray… which sounds like something the master muralist (and serial liar), Diego Rivera would have made up. But Diego never thought of that story, and it wasn’t true anyway. No… O’Higgins actually came here to study with Diego… and José Clemente Orozco and that other Mexico “O” muralist, Juan O’Gorman (I’m always confusing the two.)

As committed to THE Revolution (international or simply Mexican) as the masters, but much less a publicity hound than Diego, O’Higgins suffered the fate of being the second generation of Mexican muralists (he took out Mexican citizenship). He wasn’t new, and Mexico was out of fashion from the 40s until very recently when everybody decided Frieda Kahlo was interesting. Everybody but the Mexicans that is.

For Mexicans, Kahlo is a European “artiste” wannabe whose self-indulgence and morbid self-absorbsion is very un-Mexican. Mexican artists, especially Revolutionary ones are “jest folks”… one with the people… and one of the people. Frieda may have a Communist, and she married Diego (who is forgiven his outsized ego… and outsized SIZE… the guy was HUGE!… because he really did start a revolution — artistic, not the workers’ one), but, she looks like someone just starved for attention and living in her own universe. But her life is interesting. Entire books (and a crappy Hollywood movie) are dedicated to her. Pablo O’Higgins’ biography is only sixty words at “Biografias y Vidas . com”. Rather than draw himself and talk endlessly about himself, he painted the people he respected… the ordinary, hard-working Mexican campesinos and workers.

Mercado Abelardo Rodriguez, off calle del Carmen between c. Rep. de Venezuela and c. Rep. de Colombia is, in some ways the pefect setting to see his works. Although the murals need restoration, the Mercado is not on any tourist trail. It’s decidedly an everyday blue collar, traditional working class market… the hard working campesinos and workers O’Higgins respected as the “Real Mexicans”. His subject is the struggle of the common person for dignity, and where better to witness the artistic representation than in the midst of the real thing… among those working class heros at their neighborhood mercado, in the heart of Tepito, the barrio bravo?

Detail from La lucha obrera, mural by Pablo O’Higgins (1904-1983) Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 29 November 2006 8:37 pm

    I own 2 Pablo O’Higgns works from 1949, signed.

  2. 25 December 2009 3:00 pm

    Who is this snarky ‘reviewer, & what did he, (I betcha it’s a pale ass male blogger), ever do with his life? Ever stick your thin neck out for anything you believed in other than your own sense of self importance? I doubt you have the imagination to understand the real context in which these three dimensional people lived and the choices that they made for them selves based on a moral, and ethical sense of social justice that you so liberally take pot shots at.
    Yeah, I find it quite offensive!
    My dad knew Paul when they were both young and involved in movement work in Mexico. I was able to meet the maestro in ’66 quite by accident.
    Above all he was a very decent man.
    Learn something before you shoot your ignorant mouth off!
    Better yet- get out there and contribute to something other than the tip jar at your local latte dispensary.
    Anyone out there have contact with any of Pablo O’Higgin’s living relatives?

  3. 28 February 2010 2:53 am

    Pablo O’Higgins is honored in the Murals of Chicano Park in San Diego California.

  4. Judy permalink
    10 March 2010 4:01 pm

    I have what I believe is a mass produced lithograth of “an array of flowers in a vase” that I have enjoyed in my living room for many years. It doesn’t appear to be signed but it is oil on canvas with a wooden frame underneath. It was really cheap. Since I am moving into an RV for a years trip around the US natl parks, I was trying to price it for my upcoming yard sale. typed on the back r the words: 2006 Esteban/Applejack Art Partners. I looked them up on the internet and it is Product Id 60119 in their catelogue of lithograths and posters. Curious about the artest, I searched some more and found the article on the show in Utah and a little about his life. I was so touched, that I doubt I will ever sell this little painting not only because it brings me joy, but because I am now an admirer of the artest. Appreicated the extra info from those who knew the Maestro…

    • Kenji ikenaga permalink
      27 May 2013 6:43 pm

      Hi Judy, I´m a japanese/mexican fimmaker working on a documentary film about Pablo O´Higgins, I found your comment very interesting and I want to get in contact with you to hear the whole story, please contact me. Thanks. Kenji.

  5. Karl-Heinz O'Higgins permalink
    21 July 2010 2:31 pm

    Many thanks to the thoughtful comments regarding this hero and artist. I purchased a Pablo O’Higgins painting six years ago and love the style, colours and subject matter. The snarky review of this artist was disheartening.

    As a former street activist, community organizer and current Ex-pat, hats off to Senor O’Higgins!

    • 21 July 2010 2:52 pm


      My dad & Paul, during their 20s & 30s,were good friends.
      I met the maestro quite by chance in ’66 at the Univ. in DF. He was wonderful to me although by that time could not place my dad.
      I was left with a wonderful B&W litho of a someone giving a speech on the steps of the Bellas Artes, dated ’37. Very moving, full of the political energy of those times.

      Where are you located?

      I am in Oakland, CA

  6. nodar permalink
    22 January 2011 6:14 am

    i have his painting how much does it cost i dont know.. its litrograph. how much i can sell it does anybody know it??


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