Guy Carleton Wiggins may have inherited his artistic skills from his father, the well-known landscape artist Carleton Wiggins; his father introduced him to the Old Lyme art colony that he helped found. In addition to his father’s influence and tutelage, Wiggins studied art at the National Academy of Design in New York City under William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri (one of the “eight” who made up the Ashcan school of art, and whose realistic New York City scenes had considerable influence on Wiggins’ subject matter). In 1919, Wiggins was elected to full membership in the Academy.
It was at a young age that Wiggins gained national prominence and favor; at the age of twenty, Wiggins was the youngest American to have works purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and accepted into their permanent collection. His fame was only strengthened with the many awards and prizes he gained throughout his artistic career. These include the Hartford Prize from the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts in 1917, the coveted Norman Wait Harris bronze medal from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1917, and later the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts’ Flagg Prize (two times).
Before the onset of World War I, Wiggins spent some time abroad in England painting the local scenery (for a commission that later fell through). There he met his first wife, Dorothy Stuart Johnson. In 1920, they purchased a farm in Hamburg Cove, Connecticut, near to Lyme, and lived there until 1937, when they relocated to Essex. While living in New England, Wiggins created most of his well-known New England scenes. The works he created at that time led him to receive the J. Francis Murphy Memorial Prize from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1922. Throughout this time Wiggins continued to paint in his New York City studio. He became active in the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts as an exhibitor, juror, and later, President.
Late in the 1920s, Wiggins began producing his New York snow scenes, for which he is most well known. The paintings he created then were showered with recognition and awards. While still continuing to paint, Wiggins moved to Essex (c.1937) and began the Guy Wiggins Art School, a year-round art school. Soon after establishing his school, Wiggins traveled around the U.S., sketching a wide variety of landscapes.
Guy Carleton Wiggins produced paintings and sought new areas to sketch throughout his life, even when things around him were changing. He divorced his first wife in the early 1940s, and later married Dolores Gaxton Hughes in 1948. He spent the remainder of his life continuing his lifelong passion of painting, supplementing it with travel and teaching. He died in 1962 while on vacation. His works still live today, a testimony to his style’s longevity and appeal. Two of his paintings hang in the White House.