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Case Study: Anna Catherine Wiley (Knoxville, TN, 1879-1958)

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Catherine Wiley was one of the early female art students at the University of Tennessee, and taught art and drawing there from 1905 until 1918. She is credited with establishing formal art instruction at the school, and with making the program into one of the South’s best. While teaching at the university she wrote art reviews for the Knoxville News Sentinel, created illustrations for the Volunteer college yearbook, served as President of the Nicholson Art League, and director of the Fine Arts Department of Knoxville’s National Conservation Exposition. Wiley also studied at the Art Students League in New York under Frank DuMond and William Merritt Chase, and spent summers learning from major American Impressionists such as Robert Reid, Jonas Lie, and Martha Walter. She won two gold medals at the Appalachian Exposition in 1910 for “Most Meritorious Collection” and claimed the prize for the best Southern artist at the Southwestern Fair in Atlanta in 1917. Her paintings often depicting women in picturesque settings with vivid colors and expressive strokes, were exhibited at many prominent venues including the National Academy of Design in New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Catherine played a crucial role in developing visual arts in Knoxville as well as bringing attention to Southern women artists. In 1926, after the death of her father (1919) and mentor Lloyd Branson (1925), Wiley suffered a mental collapse which ended her painting career. She remained institutionalized until her death and is now buried in Old Gray Cemetery in Knoxville, TN.

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Lot 179: Impressionist Oil on Canvas by Anna Catherine Wiley Impressionist Oil on Canvas by Anna Catherine Wiley Lot 179: Impressionist Oil on Canvas by Anna Catherine Wiley

Anna Catherine Wiley (1879 -1958) impressionist oil on canvas painting, depicting seated mother and child in a meadow. The woman’s flower- adorned hat sits in the foreground and a bank of trees is in the background. Signed and dated “Catherine Wiley, 1913″ lower right. Sight – 28 1/2″ H x 32 3/4″ W. Framed – 34 1/2″ H x 38 3/4” W. Provenance: a private Blount County, Tennessee collection. Biography: Catherine Wiley was one of the early female students at the University of Tennessee, and taught art and drawing there from 1905 until 1918. She is credited with establishing formal art instruction at the school, and with making the program into one of the South’s best. Wiley also studied at the Art Students League in New York under Frank DuMond, and spent summers learning from major American impressionists such as Robert Reid, Jonas Lie, and Martha Walter. She won two gold medals at the Appalachian Exposition in 1910, and claimed the prize for best Southern artist at the Southwestern Fair in Atlanta in 1917. She served as President of the Nicholson Art League and director of the Fine Arts Department of Knoxville’s National Conservation Exposition. Her paintings – often depicting women in picturesque settings — were exhibited at many prominent venues including the National Academy of Design in New York, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1926, Wiley suffered a mental collapse which ended her painting career. She remained institutionalized until her death. Private Knoxville, TN collection. Condition: Overall very good condition with two visible spots of paint loss, one on a tree trunk in the background, the other in the bottom of the lady’s dress. Blacklighting does not reveal any repair or restoration. [See more photos →]

$107,880.00
Lot 114: Catherine Wiley O/C, The Pea Shellers Catherine Wiley O/C, The Pea Shellers Lot 114: Catherine Wiley O/C, The Pea Shellers

Anna Catherine Wiley (Knoxville, TN, 1879-1958), “The Pea Shellers,” impressionist oil on canvas painting depicting three women seated on the porch of an East Tennessee home, Wolf Creek, shelling peas. The women are seated in ladderback chairs, filling woven baskets with green peas while pods accumulate on the floor; sunlight filters through foliage in the background. According to oral history, the three women in the scene are Helen Peck Allen, Nell Allen and “Mary,” a housekeeper. Miss Wiley was a friend of the Allen family and spent summer weeks at the Allen family estate at Wolf Creek, visiting Helen Peck Allen (in whose family this painting has descended). It was during one of these visits that Wiley painted this scene. Wolf Creek was a summer vacation community located in eastern Cocke County, alongside the French Broad River and bordering the Tennessee and North Carolina state line. The Allen house was also known as the Wolf Creek Inn. Note: This painting was exhibited at the Knoxville Museum of Art’s as part of their ongoing exhibit, “Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee”. Wolf Creek was the setting for several Wiley paintings including “Farmstead” and “Indian Woman at Wolf Creek” both illustrated in the 1990 TN State Museum exhibit catalog titled “Southern Impressionist: The Art of Catherine Wiley”, pages 15 and 34. Housed in a later gilt wood frame with egg and dart molded rabbet edge. Sight – 19 1/2″ H x 23 1/8″ W. Framed – 24 1/2″ H x 28 1/2″ W. Provenance: the collection of Helen Peck Allen, by descent to her son David Allen Dashiell, by descent to Georgia Ryan Mott Dashiell. “The art of Catherine Wiley has long been considered one of the more beautiful manifestations of Southern impressionism. Her animated broken brush work, her colorful sun splashed fields and her endearing depictions of genteel ladies and well-dressed children at rest and play seem to suggest a life lived quietly and at peace with the world. Yet her life may well have been far more turbulent, and her descent into the state of madness, which removed her from the world for the last 37 years of her life, far more apparent in her art than simple summations of her importance would imply. Large numbers of women entered the art world towards the end of the 19th century, their pathway smoothed by the arts and crafts route which saw them ushered on from sewing circles and homebased kilns into actual studios where they were taught by the male masters of the day. Catherine Wiley was one of those. She studied at the Art Students League in New York with Frank Vincent Dumond prior to returning to her native Knoxville where she became an associate of Lloyd Branson, the most important local artist of the day. She was a pioneer instructor at the University of Tennessee Art Department and a frequent winner of citations for her work at regional exhibitions, notably acclaimed for most meritorious collection at the Knoxville Appalachian Exposition in 1910. The Pea Shellers, here offered for auction, can be seen as one of the more telling revealing moments in her progress as an artist. Compositional format in her early work is largely horizontal, her decorative figures placed mid-field without any implication of depth or forced perspective. But in The Pea Shellers her subjects have moved inside a shed and are actually at work. Gone is the wide spread vista, replaced by the tri-angular projection of the roof shed over which trailing vine drops into the scene, a spontaneous insertion of nature in motion, as yet untrimmed. Her palette, though still bright, is here more tonal, an essay in the close color harmonics of blue and green which impart a slight shimmer to the otherwise mundane occupation of the inhabitants. This painting is surely mid-career. By 1923 she was painting in a far darker mood. “Under The Arbor,” (Morris Museum of Art) has a well dressed young woman standing at dazed attention beneath a canopy of black leaves, out of place with her setting, even as the setting itself is distant from lush agrarian idealism. By 1925 her mind was gone. One of her final paintings, to be seen at the East Tennessee Historical Society, is so heavily thick with paint that the actual scene itself is unclear, a swirling abstraction lost in space. The Pea Shellers importance springs from what it tells the viewer about Catherine WileyÕs potential, as it seems to indicate that she was beginning to move on from pastoral post card reveries towards an artistic expression more concerned with life than with appearance. It is a painting that can be viewed as evidence that her full potential as an artist was never to be seen by we, her subsequent viewers, for which we are all poorer.”– Estill Curtis Pennington, art historian and author, “Southern Impressionist: The Art of Catherine Wiley,” exhibit catalog for the 1990 exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum. CONDITION: Overall good condition. Two old circular repairs are visible en verso near the upper and lower edges, one measuring 1 3/8″ diameter and the other measuring 1 1/2″ H x 1 5/8″ W. UV light reveals area of touchup to post at lower left corner and to two small areas of beam, upper center, and to a few spots of foliage, upper center. One tiny area of touchup to the area where hair meets upper cheek on the woman facing the viewer and a few tiny scattered spots to background. Some fine scattered cracquelure. [See more photos →]

$84,000.00
Lot 181: Catherine Wiley, O/C Mountain Landscape Catherine Wiley, O/C Mountain Landscape Lot 181: Catherine Wiley, O/C Mountain Landscape

Anna Catherine Wiley (1879-1958) impressionist oil on canvas landscape painting, depicting a field of corn shocks in the foreground against a mountainous background. The scene is reminiscent of Cade’s Cove in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Signed lower right C. Wiley. Later giltwood frame with linen liner. Canvas size: 16″ x 12″. Framed: 22″ x 17″. Biography: Catherine Wiley is one of Tennessee’s most important nationally recognized artists. She was one of the early female students at the University of Tennessee, and was later credited with establishing formal art instruction at the school. Wiley studied at the Art Students League in New York under Frank DuMond, and spent summers learning from major American impressionists such as Robert Reid, Jonas Lie, and Martha Walter. She won numerous prizes including two Gold Medals at the Appalachian Exposition in 1910 and her paintings were exhibited at prominent American venues including the National Academy of Design in New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Her thriving career was ended by a mental collapse which left her institutionalized until her death. Provenance: Private Tennessee collection. Proceeds from the sale of this painting benefit the Earl O. Henry Memorial Avian Exhibit at Ijams Nature Center. The exhibit showcases pre-World War II avian taxidermy and the art of Knoxville bird painter Earl O. Henry, one of the men killed in the 1945 attack on the USS Indianapolis. Condition: Overall very good condition, relined, one minor paint flake to lower margin. [See more photos →]

$12,870.00
Lot 130: Catherine Wiley, O/C Landscape w/ figure Catherine Wiley, O/C Landscape w/ figure Lot 130: Catherine Wiley, O/C Landscape w/ figure

Anna Catherine Wiley (TN, 1879-1958) oil on canvas landscape of an Autumn meadow with large tree and figure in the foreground, billowing clouds to the left sky area with a dark blue sky to the right. Signed lower right in red, “Wiley”. Contemporary gilt wood frame. Sight 15 5/8″ W x 11 3/4″ H, 20 5/8″ W x 16 3/4″ H. Note – a larger composition of the same landscape titled, “Gathering in the Woods” depicting the Spring season is in the collection of the Tennessee State Museum, Nashville. Biography: Catherine Wiley is one of Tennessee’s most important nationally recognized artists. She was one of the early female students at the University of Tennessee, and was later credited with establishing formal art instruction at the school. Wiley studied at the Art Students League in New York under Frank DuMond, and spent summers learning from major American impressionists such as Robert Reid, Jonas Lie, and Martha Walter. She won numerous prizes including two Gold Medals at the Appalachian Exposition in 1910 and her paintings were exhibited at prominent American venues including the National Academy of Design in New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Her thriving career was ended by a mental collapse which left her institutionalized until her death. CONDITION: Overall excellent condition, retains the original stretchers and canvas. One tiny spot less than 1/16″ dia inpainted in foreground. [See more photos →]

$9,440.00
Lot 115: Catherine Wiley O/C Forest Landscape Catherine Wiley O/C Forest Landscape Lot 115: Catherine Wiley O/C Forest Landscape

Anna Catherine Wiley (TN, 1879-1958) oil on canvas on board impressionist landscape, depicting a sun-dappled path leading through a forest. Signed lower right "Catherine Wiley". Housed in the original carved and painted frame. Additionally signed en verso on artist's board label. Otto Hylen Company/Nashville, TN label also en verso. Sight – 13 3/4" H x 9 5/8" W. Framed – 19 1/2" H x 15 3/4" W. Provenance: Originally from the collection of Thomas and Lola King, Nashville, TN. Descended through the family to the current owner. Biography: Catherine Wiley is among Tennessee's most important painters. She played a crucial role in developing visual arts in Knoxville as well as bringing attention to Southern female artists. She was one of the first women to study art at the University of Tennessee, and taught art and drawing there from 1905 until 1918. While teaching at the university, she wrote art reviews for the Knoxville News Sentinel, created illustrations for the Volunteer college yearbook, served as President of the Nicholson Art League, and Director of the Fine Arts Department of Knoxville's National Conservation Exposition. Wiley also studied at the Art Students League in New York under Frank DuMond and William Merritt Chase, and spent summers learning from major American Impressionists such as Robert Reid, Jonas Lie, and Martha Walter. She won two gold medals at the Appalachian Exposition in 1910 for "Most Meritorious Collection" and claimed the prize for the best Southern artist at the Southwestern Fair in Atlanta in 1917. Her paintings, often depicting women in picturesque settings with vivid colors and expressive strokes, were exhibited at many prominent venues including the National Academy of Design in New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1926, after the death of her father (1919) and mentor Lloyd Branson (1925), Wiley suffered a mental collapse which ended her painting career. She remained institutionalized until her death, and is now buried in Old Gray Cemetery in Knoxville, TN. CONDITION: Canvas is wrapped around artist board. Professionally restored, including a very small amount of inpainting lower center margin of painting. Current flaking and losses to paint on frame. [See more photos →]

$5,520.00