Irving Ramsay Wiles


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Painter. Among the most popular American portrait painters of his day, he also painted landscapes, marine subjects, and genre scenes. Born in upstate Utica, he grew up in New York City. In 1879 he enrolled at the Art Students League, where he developed a lasting friendship with his most influential teacher, William Merritt Chase. In Paris between 1882 and 1884, Wiles studied at the Académie Julian and in the atelier of Émile-Auguste Carolus-Duran. Upon his return to New York, he supplemented painting with illustration for at least a decade. He also worked in watercolor and pastel. As his reputation grew, he increasingly turned his attention to portraiture, rendering sitters in a fluid, yet solidly constructed style. He also won praise for such genre paintings as The Sonata (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1889), picturing two attractive young ladies making music. The darkened interior sets off shimmering dresses painted with a fluency suggestive of John Singer Sargent's portraits. During summers particularly, he also painted freer landscapes indebted to impressionist technique and vision. After 1900 he traveled often, both to Europe and within the United States.

Wiles died at Peconic, on eastern Long Island's North Fork. Originally drawn to the area in the mid-1890s to establish a summer painting school, he had lived there year-round for some years. The school replaced the Silver Lake Art School, where he had taught during the previous decade, west of New York's Finger Lakes region. His father had founded the school near Perry, his birthplace, in the late 1870s, and the two continued to teach together at Peconic. Lemuel Maynard Wiles (1826–1905), known principally as a landscape painter, worked in a style indebted to the Hudson River School. He graduated from the New York State Normal School (now the State University of New York at Albany) in 1847. Largely self-taught as a painter, he worked with William MacDougal Hart in Albany and in the early 1850s received some assistance from Jasper Cropsey in New York. He moved there permanently shortly after Irving's birth but subsequently accepted teaching positions outside the city. Travels to the West and to Panama in the 1870s provided many subjects, but he was best known for views of rural New York State. Irving's daughter Gladys Lee Wiles (1890–1984), also known as Mrs. W. R. Jepson, a painter mainly of portraits but also other subjects, studied with Chase and Kenyon Cox.

Subjects: Art.

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