Higgs, Cecil (1900 – 1986)
Cecil Higgs, who was born in Thaba “Nchu in the Orange Free State, spent over a decade in the Studios of London
and Paris, tutored by the artists, Walter Sickert and Andre Lhote. However, she professed a greater debt to the
paintings of Rembrandt and the modern masters, Matisse, Picasso, Bracque and Vuillard, which she saw in the
museums and private galleries of these cities during the 1920’s.
On her return she settled in Cape Town and later in the small coastal town of Vermont. The subject of people,
often gently satirised, dominates her early paintings, their faces generalised and their posture stylised, giving
precedence to their visual qualities over their identities.
In terms of sheer painterly quality, Cecil Higgs was regarded as one of the most significant South African
women artists of her generation. It was not the content of her work, mainly human in the early period, nor the
conventions she adopted, but the way in which she handled paint that brought her to attention in the heyday of
the New Group exhibitions.
The most distinctive of feature of Cecil Higgs’ painting style was the inseparability of form and colour. One does
not exist without the other. She passed away in 1986 in Cape Town.
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