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John Carleton Wiggins (American, 1848-1932)

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John Carleton Wiggins (often identified simply as Carleton Wiggins, preferring not to use his first name) was born on March 4, 1848 to Guy and Adelaide Ludlum Wiggins in Harriman, New York. Encouraged by some early success in sketching and painting, a wealthy patron paid for him to study painting more intensively. He studied the Hudson River School American artist Johann Carmiencke, a painter of romantic and vivid landscapes. Naturally influenced by Carmiencke's passion, Carleton focused his own attentions on the study of landscapes. He attended the National Academy of Design in New York, where he studied under the Tonalist landscape painter George Inness (American, 1825-1894). His first exhibition at the Academy was in 1870. 

He was heavily influenced by the French Barbizon School, having studied plein-air painting at Salon in Paris starting in 1880. Having long admired the animalier paintings of French artist Constant Troyon, Wiggins began to introduce sheep and cattle into his landscapes. Encouraged by the sale of a large painting ("Holstein Steer") for $4,000 to long term patron Joseph Crafton, the painting now held by the Metroplitan Museum of Art, Wiggins began exhibiting these animal subjects at Salon. Entering "Shepherd and his Flock" in 1881, he exhibited regularly and in 1894 was awarded the prestigious Gold Medal for his landscape of sheep. In 1896 he began regularly exhibiting at the Royal Academy in London. 

Wiggins studied and painted extensively abroad, including Cornwall, England and throughout the Netherlands. Painting delicate and relaxed landscapes throughout the Netherlands, he created a "Dutch Utopia" capturing a nostalgia of simplicity in rural life that found a strong market in American homes. His primary place of residence in the States was in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where he was one of the founders of the American Impressionism movement of the Old Lyme art colony: “For years the village of Old Lyme, Connecticut, has had a summer art colony of much note. This season the colony has been augmented by Mr. Carleton Wiggins, who has acquired a very picturesque place overlooking the Connecticut River and with a combination of scenic qualities which has fairly entitled it to its name of ‘River Wood.” (As reported in Brooklyn Life, 1905) 

Carleton Wiggins married Mary Clucas, becoming father to four children, including the very successful painter of American cityscapes, Guy Carleton Wiggins. 

In the June 7th, 2011 New York Times article on the Wiggins family (A Family of Painters is Having Its Moment), notes that Wiggins "...was described in the 1915 edition of Biographical Sketches of American Artists as 'the most distinguished painter of sheep and cattle in the United States.' His pieces, acquired by many collectors, fetched a good price for the time, as much as $10,000, according to the Salmagundi exhibit catalog, which relied on research by the exhibit curator, the art dealer Joan Whalen, and Anne Cohen DePietro, director of American paintings at the Doyle New York auction house." 

His works are held in major collections and museums, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Newark Museum, the Concoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Smithsonian American Museum in Washington DC and many others. He died in Old Lyme, Connecticut on June 11th, 1932.


  • "E. Benezit Dictionary of Artists, Vol. XIV", Grund, 2006, p. 890
  • "Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers", Glenn Opitz, p. 1008