Albuquerque Museum Exhibit Features Works by Tinsmith/Hojalatero Higinio V. Gonzales

The Artistic Odyssey of Higinio V. Gonzales: A Tinsmith and Poet in Territorial New Mexico
Dec. 19, 2015 – April 4, 2016


Featured photo:  Higinio Gonzales, b. 1842, Tin frame with mirror, c. 1885, Punched tin, glass, Gift of Ward Alan Minge and Shirley Jolly Minge

Higinio V. Gonzales could be described as a Renaissance man. The prolific 19th century educator, artisan, poet and musician’s exquisite tinwork has languished in relative obscurity for decades. That is, until the ground-breaking research of artist and art history scholar Maurice M. Dixon, Jr. spent years examining Gonzales’ various works. He discovered that the man known only as the “Valencia Red and Green Tinsmith” was one of the most well-known and prolific of New Mexico artisans.

Above An 1885 nicho, made of tin and glass, by Higinio Gonzales.
Photo: David Nufer/Albuquerque Museum
Gift of Dr. Ward Alan & Shirley Jolly Minge (PC1997.51.10.A

The Artistic Odyssey of Higinio V. Gonzales: A Tinsmith and Poet in Territorial New Mexico, a new exhibition opening December 19 at the Albuquerque Museum, is a tribute to both the artist and the determination of Dixon to bring his work into the light today.

Born in 1842, Gonzales had a varied career. Garrisoned as a soldier at Fort Craig, Fort Union and Fort Bascom during the Civil War, he was also a published poet, composed corridos (narrative ballads), and once worked as a teacher in a one-room adobe schoolhouse. He apparently also had quite a reputation as a ladies’ man.

Dixon’s research led him to discover that many tinworks ascribed to others were actually the work of Higinio Gonzales. Dixon, who has a B.F.A, and M.F.A., is an accomplished artist himself and coauthor of “New Mexican Tinwork, 1840-1940.” He has illustrated the 19th-century stamps and designs Gonzales used in painstaking detail, making it easier for museums, historians and art historians throughout the country and worldwide to identify the work of this prolific tinsmith whose designs inspired New Deal-era and contemporary tin artists.

Processional Cross Torches

Processional cross and torches, c. 1880.
Photo by David Nufer/
Albuquerque Museum (PC1998.18.14-16)
San Juan Nepomuceno
A tin-framed retablo depicting San Juan Nepomuceno, c. 1860.
Photo by David Nufer/ Albuquerque Museum (PC1997.51.18)

The exhibition draws from a number of museum collections, including the Millicent Rogers Museum, Heard Museum, New Mexico History Museum, University of New Mexico’s Center for Southwest Research, Las Golondrinas, Museum of International Folk Art, and Albuquerque

Museum’s collections, including Casa San Ysidro’s Ward Alan and Shirley Jolly Minge Collection.

Red Green Nichos

One of Gonzales’ red and green nichos, c. 1875.
Courtesy Private Collection.

The Artistic Odyssey of Higinio V. Gonzales: A Tinsmith and Poet in Territorial New Mexico features more than 100 examples of his tinworks, illustrations, poetry that was published in newspapers and books in his time, and music documented by experts. Do not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Higinio V. Gonzales’ lifework assembled in one place.Higinio Gonzales


The artist, who lived from 1842 to 1921.
Photo: courtesy of the University of New Mexico. John Donald Robb Musical Trust (000-497).

The Albuquerque Museum of Art & History is a division of the Cultural Services Department, City of Albuquerque, Richard J. Berry, Mayor. Located at 19th and Mountain Road NW (in Historic Old Town); 505-243-7255 or call 311 locally. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.  The Museum is closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.  Visit our website at

Related articles:

The Santa Fe New Mexican:  The heart of the tin man: Higinio V. Gonzales | December 11, 2015

New Mexico Magazine:  The Tin Master | December, 2015

Green Fire Times:  Maurice Dixon Jr. Recovers the Artistic Legacy of Higinio V. Gonzales | December 1, 2015


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