By Alexandra A. Jopp
John Carleton Wiggins (more commonly known as just Carleton Wiggins) was born to Guy and Adelaide Ludlum Wiggins on March 4, 1848, in Turners (now Harriman), N। Y., west of the Hudson River. Wiggins received his early education in Middletown N.Y., and later attended public schools in Brooklyn. As a youth, he took a job at an insurance company on Wall Street, but he worked there for only two years before realizing that he had neither the courage nor the talent to devote himself to the business world. Instead, he began to study art under Johann Carmiencke, a romantic landscape painter of the Hudson River School. Under Carmiencke, Carleton turned his attention primarily to the study of landscapes.
After dedicating some time to drawing at the National Academy, Wiggins followed the guidance and encouragement of his patron, Joseph Crafton of New York, and studied with the renowned landscape specialist George Inness (1825-94). In 1870, Wiggins first exhibited at the Academy. Two years later, he married Mary Clucas, with whom he had four children, the oldest of whom – Guy Carleton Wiggins – became an established painter who specialized in Winter cityscapes.
|Seaside Sheep Pastures|
Wiggins became an associate member of the National Academy in 1890 and a full member in 1906. He exhibited at the National Academy, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Boston Art Club, among others. In the early 1900s, he traveled to Nantucket, Mass., and Long Island, N.Y., but mostly, he painted in the artist colony of Old Lyme, Conn., where he gained a new reputation as a “Tonalist” painter. His Tonalism showed in his harmonious colors, fluidly defined forms and romantic appreciation of nature.
Wiggins sometimes took his cattle painting abroad, notably to the Netherlands. In his works, the cow, traditionally seen as “a slow-moving, mild-mannered creature whose milk and cheese provided nourishment for society, symbolized the beneficial attributes of rural life, and Holland’s old-fashioned windmills and picturesque canals afforded the ideal backdrop for therapeutic scenes of lowing cattle.”2 In other words, in his Dutch utopia, Carleton Wiggins captured a relaxed lifestyle that constituted a productive and spiritual part of everyday life in a way that brought its positive influence into the parlors of American homes.
Wiggins died on June 11, 1932, in Old Lyme, Conn., home to the famed artist’s colony.
1: “In the World of Art: Exhibitions of the Week and General Art Gossip.” The New York Times, April 28, 1895: 13.
2: Kahn, Annette. “Dutch Utopia: Paintings by Antimodern American Artists of the Nineteenth Century,” Smithsonian Studies in American Art, vol. 3, no. 2. (Spring 1989): 51.