American Masterpieces from Dryads Green Gallery
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Artist Name:       Guy C. Wiggins
Artist Dates:        
1883 - 1962
Painting Title:     
Early Spring in Essex
Painting Date:      
Oil on Canvas
Signed Lower Right
Size Unframed:     25 x 30
Artist Best Price:   $374,400
Offered At:        
Curator's Comments: Guy Wiggins, Jr., at 90, while dining with us at the Salmagundi Club, spoke of his father’s life in Essex, Connecticut, emphasizing several times that in the depths of the Great Depression, “Dad, just kept trying.” The family had moved from New York City to the Impressionist community at Lyme, Connecticut, where Wiggins Jr. was born in 1920. Prior to the Depression his father purchased a farm “with outbuildings and even a sheepfold,” which were turned into an art school with as many as 100 students upto 1937. But after the breakup of Wiggins’ marriage to his English wife, Dorothy Stuart Johnson, he and Guy Jr. lived in “the Gris,” the Griswold Inn in Essex from 1937 to 1941, when the son joined the military and then the foreign service. Wiggins Sr. kept a residence in Essex, but after the war alternated between his New York studio and Florida as well.

We think the series of Essex paintings is extremely interesting, as the comparable images suggest. Wiggins employed the formula that had worked well for him in New York, focusing on structures (note his early training as an architect) and, typically, a solitary figure—what emerges f is a reminder that it would be good to get out of the snowy street and into the warmth of the human community within the seemingly empty buildings. In Essex, Wiggins wanted to catch the pervasive harmony of the country village-- painting its lanes, its dwellings and, instead of the snow, he focuses on the interaction of trees and greens with the houses—once again all is silent, but we know that life is going on in the homes seen here in Early Spring in Essex. The coloration ranging from the forsythia’s bursting yellow to the palest green of the elms’ emerging leaves bathes the houses in green tones of their own. As Adrienne L. Walt wrote in the American Art Review, "His resolution was to constantly emphasize color, elevating it above all else and achieving luminosity through it." Wiggins is often compared with Hassam, but we think the latter is much more derivative in a European impressionist sense. Wiggins’ impressionism is smoother, more subtle in its tonality, and his fauvist simplicity catches something veryAmerican—also seen in his father’s works—a much more honest treatment of the image to our mind. And we tend to agree with those critics who 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. Here we can better see the naivete that Wiggins wants. We must add that forgeries of the New York City snowscapes are a very real threat for collectors. Our work has been authenticated by the artist's son.
        Our TV Star is Back!
We are pleased to report that Early Spring in Essex was chosen as one of twenty-five paintings selected for the recent--three
generation--Wiggins, Wiggins,Wiggins exhibit held at the Salmagundi Club which reported attendance of 10,000 by the NY Times and the painting was seen  on Channel 7 in the background of an inter-view with Guy A. Wiggins, the artist's son!
Two Views of the "Gris"
Wiggins revives a feeling of contentment in the simple things of life, which was in accord with the Eisenhower years. He too wanted to restore the American dream. Old Lyme, Connecticut in the 1930's was the Bedford Falls of Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life, where life beats despair any day, and Essex bills itself as “the best small town in America.” We think a mature Wiggins was painting his goodbye to the New England coastal village that he thought of as home. Today the elms may be gone, but the spirit that is here is so much of New England that every time we look at this work it calls to mind the country towns of Massachusetts and Connecticut we have lived in and never can forget. Notice too how the eye is quick to enter the deep shade of the porch touching on the forsythia. There are tunnels here, passages thru windows and doors and trees, with the lane itself becoming a tree-topped tunnel that goes on forever. The more we look at this work, the more we see, which is its greatness as a work of art. Notice the bend in the lane to the left and how it balances the convexity of the road, and the green within its surface. We see something new here everyday--subtle expressions that make this a keeper. This is the real thing--and  very much worth owning--don't miss it.

Guy Wiggins, ca. 1945
Born in 1883 in Brooklyn, New York, Guy C. began his training under his father. The Wiggins name is associated with three generations of artists: Carleton Wiggins (1848-1932); Guy Carleton Wiggins (1883-1962); and Guy A. Wiggins (b. 1920). However, the "artistic" reputation of Guy C. Wiggins surpasses both that of his father and his son. Wiggins spent part of his childhood in England and on the Continent when his father took the family abroad. He entered the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn to study architecture, but soon decided to become a painter and transferred to the National Academy of Design, where he studied with Chase and Henri too. His New York cityscape painting, Metropolitan Tower, purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1912, is said to have made Wiggins the youngest American artist to have his  work enter that museum's permanent collection. More interesting for us, in 1922, the Rhode Island School of Design awarded Wiggins their J. Francis Murphy Memorial Prize. Wiggins has three paintings in the Smithsonian (one more than his father) and two in the White House.

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