GUY CARLETON WIGGINS 
American (1883-1962) 
"The Circle, New York City" 
oil on board, signed "Guy C. Wiggins" lower left,

titled on the reverse. 
7 1/2 x 10 inches

 

A brilliantly painted snow scene, The Circle depicts New York’s Columbus Circle looking south from the Columbus Memorial. Views open up down Broadway on the left and down Eighth Avenue on the right.

 

The small red building on the right, at 2 Columbus Circle, is the Grand Circle Hotel. When it was built in 1874, it was one of the northernmost development in west Midtown.[1] Demolished in 1960, its site housed the Gallery of Modern Art, an unorthodox modernist structure nicknamed the “Lollipop Building” for its fanciful arcade. After considerable controversy, that building was remodeled to serve as the new home of the Museum of Arts and Design, which opened in 2008.

 

The tall building on the left, at 58th Street and Broadway, is the former U. S. Rubber Company Building. It was built in 1911-12 by Carrere & Hastings, the architectural firm that designed the flagship building of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. In 1920-21, U. S. Rubber’s competitor, the Fisk Tire and Rubber Company, built a 26-story building, also by Carrere and Hastings, across Broadway on the south side of 57th Street (U. S. Rubber would buy Fisk in 1939).[2] The absence in Wiggins’ painting of the Fisk Building, which dwarfed the Grand Boulevard Hotel, allows the painting to be dated between the end of the construction of the U. S. Rubber Building in 1912 and the beginning of the construction of the Fisk Building in 1920.

 

Since Wiggins had studied architecture and drafting at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, he was well prepared to observe the rich urban fabric of New York City. Following in the footsteps of his father, the landscape painter Carleton Wiggins, he also studied at the National Academy of Design. He had become successful as a painter of winter scenes in New York by 1912, when his painting The Metropolitan Tower was bought by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.[3] Wiggins’ style is closest to that of Childe Hassam, another American Impressionist who painted elegant New York scenes with bravura technique.

 

Although his reputation was built on the strength of his winter scenes, during the summer Wiggins often visited his family home in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where he also painted rural landscapes and founded his own art school. He exhibited at many venues, including the National Academy of Design, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Art Institute of Chicago, Salmagundi Club, Corcoran Gallery biennials, Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, and the Rhode Island School of Design. He was a National Academician and a member of the Salmagundi Club, National Arts Club, Lotos Club, Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, Lyme Art Association, Kit Kat Club, and the New Haven Paint and Clay Club. His work can be found in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, National Arts Club, and Lotos Club, New York; Newark Museum, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut; Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Massachusetts; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.; and the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

 

 

[1] Christopher Gray, “Streetscapes: Readers’ Questions: Audubon’s Home, and Columbus Circle’s Past,” New York Times, November 27, 2005.

[2] David W. Dunlap, On Broadway: A Journey Uptown Over Time (New York: Rizzoli Publications, 1990), 195, 200; “Fisk to U. S.,” Time Magazine, December 18, 1939.

[3] Anne Cohen DiPietro, Wiggins, Wiggins & Wiggins: Three Generations of American Art (New York: Joan Whalen Fine Art, 1998), 7-8.

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