Guy C. Wiggins
Guy Carleton Wiggins (1883-1962) "Early Spring Essex," 1950, Oil on Canvas, 25 x 30, signed. Authenticated by the artist's son Guy Arthur Wiggins.
"ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE"
Three generations of Wiggins painters came to an end in 2020. The lineage began with Carleton Wiggins (1848-1932), whose cow filled landscapes remain popular today. Guy Carleton Wiggins (1883-1962), known as Guy C., continued the lineage,
and was the family's most successful artist. 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. The last of the line, Guy Arthur Wiggins (1920--2020), known as Guy A., lived to 100. He served as the authenticator of his father's work, and certified the painting we offer. He also painted right up to the end of his life, and his work has been confused with his more successful father's by auctioneers unaware of the Wiggins legacy. While dining with me, Guy A. spoke of his father’s life in Essex, Connecticut, emphasizing the hard times experienced in the depths of the Great Depression. 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 A. 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. Let me add here that the son, Guy A., was a charming man, with a kind word for everyone, and after his favorite Perfect Manhattan, could recite Byron's, "The Destruction of Sennacherib," by heart.
Guy Wiggins, ca. 1945
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
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
interview with Guy A. Wiggins, the
Guy C. was the family's masterpiece maker. 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. But war and the Great Depression impacted his career. He painted New York City snowscapes. emphasizing the Plaza, Fifth Avenue, and the stock exchange--with nearly every major Wall Street CEO having a Wiggins hanging in the office. But Wiggins' best work 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.” Every time we look at his Essex 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. Notice the bend in the lane to the left and how it balances the convexity of the road, and the green within its surface. In this Essex masterpiece, Wiggins wanted to catch the pervasive harmony of the country village--painting its lanes and dwellings. He focuses on the interaction of bud red trees and greens lawns with the homes that are natural as well. Once again all is silent, but we know that life is going on in the houses seen here.
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 very American. The more we look at this work, the more we see, which is its greatness as a work of art, and 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.