Painter, jeweler, and accessory designer Hubert Pickering Harmon Jr. (1913-2004) was born in Highland Park, Illinois, and studied at the Parsons School of Design in Paris before marrying in 1940 and traveling to the Caribbean and Hawaii. Edgar Rice Burroughs, in a letter from Hawaii dated 1941, writes: “Have met a young couple at the Niumalu who drop in for Contract [Bridge] or conversation quite often – Louise and Hubert Harmon. He has spent much of his life in France and England and consorted with royalty, nobility, and aristocracy; so he is very interesting. He is so well connected that he had the entree to the palaces, castles, and chateaux of many interesting people.”
Later in 1941 or early in 1942, Harmon and his wife moved to Mexico. Harmon “breezed” into Taxco “in 1942 with his high-society wife, twenty-five pieces of luggage and two brown standard poodles.” Harmon worked briefly in jewelry design in Taxco before moving to Mexico City. He continued to visit Taxco regularly for several years in order to oversee his designs, mostly of silver jewelry but also of copper or brass accessories. His silver designs are often described as “whimsical” and are much sought after by collectors. His silver pieces include feet, angels and dogs (especially poodles) as well as stars, mermaids and dolphins.
Harmon’s designs were worn not only by his wife but also by such illustrious stars as Hollywood glamor icon Dolores del Rio and her Great Dane.
In the early 1950s he enjoyed a playboy lifestyle jetting between Europe and North America. He was definitely painting during this time, as shown by plans for a December 1951 showing of his paintings of poodles in a New York City gallery.
His wife died in 1970. By the early 1970s, Harmon was brightening up the social scene in Ajijic and active in the local art community. He was a founder member of the Clique Ajijic art group that arranged group exhibitions in several cities in Mexico for 3 or 4 years in the mid 1970s. The group also included Tom Faloon, Synnove (Shaffer) Pettersen, Todd (“Rocky”) Karns, Gail Michaels, Sidney (“Sid”) Schwartzman, John K. Peterson and Adolfo Riestra.
Tragically, in the 1990s a fraudster tricked Harmon out of his valuable personal collection of silver and he lived the last few years of his life in extreme poverty in an old folks’ home in Chapala.
[Credit: My thanks to Tom Thomson of Ajijic for sharing some of the details of Harmon’s later life]
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