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 Guy Carleton Wiggins  (1883 - 1962)

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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut/Florida      Known for: urban snowfall and other impressionist landscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information, submitted by I. Bud Hillyer, artist and collector from Palm Springs, California, is from a biography provided in an EBAY offering of work by Guy Wiggins. Hillyer wrote: "There are some new things contained about Wiggins I had not known."


Guy Carleton Wiggins (1881-1962) is best known for his impressionistic snow scenes of New York in 1920's. Wiggins lived in Old Lyme and Essex where he operated an art school. The Connecticut country-side was conducive to his impressionist technique of plein-air painting and broken brushwork.

Guy Carleton Wiggins had a long and successful career as an Impressionist artist and teacher in New York and Connecticut, but he once told his son (also an artist named Guy) "painting is a wonderful hobby, but a damned difficult way to make a living." (Perhaps he was thinking of the way he had sent his son through Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor with a series of paintings.)

Ironically, although his work includes many fine Connecticut landscapes, he is best remembered for some snow scenes of New York City. Like many other American Impressionists, Wiggins had one foot in the city and the other in the country (Vermont Hillside, South Londonderry).

Wiggins was born in Brooklyn, New York, went to England with his family as a boy, received an English grammar school education, and traveled widely abroad. He was the son of a prominent artist, Carleton Wiggins, a painter in the Barbizon style who studied with George Inness and admired Anton Mauve and Dwight Tryon. The father and his family had been early and regular visitors to the Old Lyme Colony, and the elder artist had settled in Lyme permanently by 1915, where he was active in the Lyme Art Association and in the social life of the colony. Carleton Wiggins' palette had brightened under the influence of Old Lyme Impressionism, but in general his work remained tonal and his subjects were truly pastoral, his paintings often of sheep in a meadow.

The son, by contrast, became strongly attracted to Impressionism and stayed with it long after it was considered outmoded. Eventually in 1920, he and his family also settled in Lyme. Some twenty years later he relocated in Essex. For a time Wiggins had some serious training as a draftsman, for he studied architecture at Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, perhaps to avoid competing with his father as an artist.

His art talent had manifested itself early and stunningly. He had been only eight years old when New York critics publicly praised some watercolors done in France and Holland. Soon his interest in art exceeded that in architecture, and he studied at the National Academy of Design, first under William Merritt Chase and later under Robert Henri. Wiggins quickly won recognition. By the time he was twenty he had a work in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was elected to full membership in the National Academy of Design in 1919. Awards came steadily, such as the prestigious Norman Wait Harris Bronze Medal from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1917. His prize list is long.

Wiggins was especially busy in the years before World War I, working on commissions from New York patrons for scenes painted "on location (Morning, Gloucester) " in England (he met his wife on one of these trips), but he found time to be at Old Lyme and exhibit there, and he became involved as well with the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, established in 1910. He showed "Building the Ship, Noank" in the premier exhibition, and for the second annual exhibition, in which he entered another Noank scene, he was on both the jury and the hanging committee.

Subsequently, besides being a juryman, he won prizes in Academy exhibitions and served as president (beginning in 1927 into the 1930s). He also belonged to the New Haven Paint and Clay Club. By 1920 Wiggins had decided to make his home on an old farm in Hamburg Cove, a picturesque area in Lyme Township. He still spent time in New York, and most of his New York snow scenes probably date from the early 1920s. In an interview published in the Detroit News in 1924 (specific date unknown), he talked about these pictures:

"One cold, blustering, snowy winter day (1912) I was in my New York studio trying to paint a summer landscape. Things wouldn't go right, and I sat idly looking out of a window at nothing. Suddenly I saw what was before me---an elevated railroad track, with a train dashing madly through the whirling blizzard-like snow that made hazy and indistinct the row of buildings on the far side of the street ("Metropolitan Tower, 1912" Metropolitan Museum, NY). Well, when I gave an exhibition a short time afterward . . . the winter canvases were sold before anything else. In a week, so to say, I was established as a painter of city winter scenes, and I found it profitable. Then suddenly I felt a revulsion against them and I stopped. Everyone said I was a fool and was shutting the door upon opportunity, maybe fame. Just the same I couldn't go on with winter stuff and that was all there was to it.

Although he spoke of the New York pictures as though they were history, he sometimes again felt the urge "to brush up a little snow" in order to pile up a little cash. Indeed, he may have changed his attitude completely, for he also once told someone that New York during a snowfall was his favorite subject.

But since Connecticut landscapes and New York snow scenes are about equal in number in his work, and comprise most of it, the pastoral quality in parts of our state clearly appealed to Wiggins. Some say the Connecticut landscapes are his best work.

In 1930 Wiggins, though he still listed a winter New York address in the American Art Annual, was advertising the "Guy Wiggins Art School: New Haven (winter); Lyme (summer)." Hartford artist James Goodwin McManus often taught the summer classes with him at Hamburg Cove. In 1937, at the age of fifty-four, Wiggins resettled in Essex and moved his art school there year-around. He invited for his students' benefit such guests as George Luks, Bruce Crane, Eugene Higgins and John Noble. He formed the Essex Painters Society.

In Essex he is reputed to have lived with his second wife in a "beach wagon." He died while on vacation in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1962 and is buried in Old Lyme. People who knew him still talk about him as "the ebullient Wiggins." His artistic reputation surpasses both that of his father and of his son.






This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Guy Carleton Wiggins adopted the bright palette and lively brushwork of the impressionist movement, and is best known for his New York City snow scenes and landscapes in the area of the Impressionist colony of Old Lyme, Connecticut.

The son of artist John Carleton Wiggins, Guy Wiggins was born and grew up in Lyme where his parents had purchased a country house and studio. Beginning 1917, both father and son gave their addresses as Old Lyme, which by then was an unofficial artist colony, dating from 1903 when Childe Hassam began painting there.

Wiggins spent part of his childhood in England and on the Continent where his father, landscape artist John Carleton Wiggins, took his family during the 1890s. Back in America, Guy entered the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn to study architecture. Soon he decided to become a painter and transferred to the National Academy of Design, beginning a life-long affiliation with that institution.

Wiggins studied with noted artists of the Old Lyme Colony who were developing their own style of impressionism - combining the French traditions and emerging American technique. He may have begun to paint his signature winter scenes after an unsuccessful attempt to paint a sunny landscape in his New York studio in winter.

His combination of the bright colors of urban life with flickering snowfall and the city's massive architecture (aided perhaps by some earlier training he had had in architecture) proved extremely successful. His New York cityscape painting, Metropolitan Tower, purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1912, supposedly made Wiggins the youngest American artist to have work enter that museum's permanent collection. "In the painting, the tower dominates the middle distance, but it is seen through an atmospheric haze created by the winter weather and by smoke coming from the numerous buildings that surround it." (Pfeil).

He won prizes from the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, the Salmagundi Club and the Art Club of Philadelphia, and in 1917, he won the prestigious Harris Bronze medal from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Wiggins set up his canvas in a variety of geographical locations including Long Island and the Bay of Fundy in Canada as well as around New England.

In 1937, Wiggins established his own art school in the nearby town of Essex. Wiggins was a painterly Realist who worked on a wide variety of subjects: robust and well-loved scenes of New York City in the snow or in the spring sunshine, still-life, delicate flower compositions and the street-scenes and landscapes of foreign lands. Cartier regularly reproduces his New York winter scenes for its "Holiday Card Collection".

Some other critics have felt that his repeated application of a similar approach to snow scenes in various locales of New York became somewhat repetitive in contrast to the spontaneity of his Old Lyme summer landscapes.

Both his New York snow scenes and delicate New England scenes are valued by collectors. Wiggins had an exhibition of his works in Richmond in 1921, painting "Washington Square in Winter" specifically for this exhibition. The painting was subsequently purchased by the museum, and the Richmond Art Museum's archives contain original correspondence with the artist.

He had many one-man and group shows throughout the east and is listed in Who's Who in American Art and Who's Who in the East. He was a member of the National Arts Club and the Salmagundi Club, both in New York. Wiggins' work is included in many collections and two of his paintings hang in the White House.

Sources:
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
William Gerdts, Masterworks of American Impressionism from the Pfeil Collection


Biography from Spanierman Gallery:
Guy Wiggins, the noted American Impressionist and one of the foremost artists affiliated with the art colony at Old Lyme, Connecticut, was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1883. He was the son of Carleton Wiggins, a prominent painter associated with the American Barbizon School. He spent the early years of his life in England where he received a grammar school education and traveled throughout Europe.

Following in his father's footsteps, Wiggins became interested in painting and drawing during his boyhood. His creative and technical abilities were acknowledged at the age of eight, when various New York critics publicly praised a group of watercolors he had done in France and Holland. He received his first serious training in architectural draughtsmanship when he studied architecture at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute around 1900. However his artistic inclination proved stronger and he went on to enroll at the National Academy of Design in New York where his teachers included William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri. Recognition and critical acclaim soon followed. When he was age twenty, one of Wiggins' works had been purchased for the Permanent Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He received numerous awards and prizes on a regular basis, including the prestigious Norman Wait Harris Bronze Medal from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1917. Two years later he was elected a full Academician of the National Academy.

During these years, Wiggins spent most of his time in New York, where he specialized in urban snow scenes, often painted from the windows of Manhattan office buildings. He also produced many landscapes in New England. By 1920, however, he had moved to an old farm in Hamburg Cove, Connecticut, a picturesque area in Lyme Township. His father, a resident of Old Lyme since 1915, had introduced his son to the area during the early years of Wiggins' childhood, when the family made frequent trips to the colony. Wiggins had also spent various summers in Old Lyme while living in New York, establishing an early connection with the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts. During the 1920's and 1930's Wiggins divided his time between Hamburg Cove and New York. His reputation at that point was based primarily on his winter scenes. However, his Connecticut summer landscapes, fresh and spontaneous in conception, are now considered an important and equally innovative part of his oeuvre.

In 1937, Wiggins moved to Essex, Connecticut, where he founded the Guy Wiggins Art School as well as the Essex Painters Society. He also made frequent painting trips throughout the United States, going as far west as Montana. He remained devoted to the Impressionist aesthetic throughout his long and prolific career, despite the fact that American art had moved in other directions.

Wiggins died while vacationing in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1962. He is buried in Old Lyme. In addition to his membership at the National Academy, he also belonged to and exhibited at the Lyme Art Association, the Lotos Club, the National Arts Club and the Salmagundi Club. Examples of his work can be found in major public and private collections throughout the United Stated including the Chicago Art Institute, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Brooklyn Museum.

CL

Biography from Art Cellar Exchange:
Guy C. Wiggins was the second generation of a three-generation family of painters. Inheriting the skill and legacy of landscape painting from his father Carleton Wiggins, Guy would develop a style that incorporated the color and techniques of French Impressionism along with emerging American concepts.

Wiggins' unique style and abilities brought him early acclaim, and throughout his life he strove to maintain and the integrity and independence of his style. According to Adrienne L. Walt from American Art Review, in a 1977 article, "his resolution was to constantly emphasize color, elevating it above all else and achieving luminosity through it ."

Born in 1883 in Brooklyn, New York, Guy began his training under his father. Around the turn of the century, he enrolled in architecture and drawing at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. He later studied painting at the National Academy of Design. At the age of 20, Wiggins became the youngest artist to have his work accepted into the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Wiggins was also awarded the Hartford Prize from the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts in 1917, the Norman Wait Harris bronze medal from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1917 and later the Connecticut Academy of Fine Art's Flagg Prize on two other occassions.

Old Lyme, Conneticut became Wiggin's summer home around 1920, where he became one of the youngest members of the Old Lyme colony of painters that congregated there. As early as 1899 the artists flocked to Old Lyme and developed an art colony in the home of Florence Griswold. For almost twenty years artists paid $9 a week to live and paint the open fields, rivers and streams, their shores, and the pastures of the Connecticut countryside. Original members of the group include Childe Hassam, Henry Rankin Poore, Frank Vincent DuMond and Carleton Wiggins.

Hassam began teaching and working in Old Lyme about 1903 where he painted a well-known series of landscapes of "The Church at Old Lyme". This series did much to popularize the area as a popular destination for budding artists.

Prior to the onset of World War I, Wiggins painted the local scenery of the English countryside. It was there he met his wife Dorothy Stuart Johnson. The couple returned the States and set up home in Connecticut until 1937. It was during this period that many of his New England scenes, like the one presented here, were painted. These works prompted yet another recognition from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1922. He was awarded their J. Francis Murphy Memorial Prize. Wiggins continued to work from his New York Studio, painting the cityscapes and snow scenes he has become famous for.

Based on the influence of teachers and greatest American landscape painters, Impressionists, and other art movements, Wiggins revives a feeling of contentment in the simple things of life, taking away the extreme highs and lows of change, and restoring the American dream. Old Lyme, Conneticut in the 1930's was the Bedford Falls of Frank Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life", where the elevation of the human spirit becomes the only factor worth considering.

Biography from Owen Gallery:
Guy C. Wiggins was born in Brooklyn, New York, but was primarily raised in England. He received early training as an architectural draftsman at the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, New York, but eventually studied art at the National Academy of Design under William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri.

Wiggins won very early success at twenty years of age with a painting accepted for the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Although he is best-remembered for his scenes of New York City in the snow, Wiggins also painted many Connecticut landscapes. He maintained a residence in Lyme, Connecticut from 1905 to 1937 and another in Essex, Connecticut from 1937 until his death in 1962.

The Wiggins name is associated with three generations of artists: Carleton Wiggins (1848-1932); Guy Carleton wiggins (1883-1962); and Guy A Wiggins (dates unavailable). However, the "artistic" reputation of Guy C Wiggins surpasses both that of his father and his son.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


Guy Wiggins is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Flag Painters
Impressionists Pre 1940
Old Lyme Colony Painters



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