Published: January 31, 2012
Thanks to an outpouring of generosity from its supporters, the Knoxville Museum of Art has acquired a landmark 1913 Impressionist painting by East Tennessee native Anna Catherine Wiley (1879‱958). The colorful scene of a woman and child in a sun-dappled meadow was purchased at auction at Knoxville’s own Case Antiques on Saturday, January 28.
“Catherine Wiley was not prolific, and her paintings rarely come on the market,” says curator Stephen Wicks. “This is one of her greatest works, from her best period, and shows why she is ranked among America’s premier Impressionists.
“We are pleased and grateful that this masterpiece will stay here,” Wicks said, adding that he expects the painting to become a signature image for the museum. “This acquisition supports in a very visible way the museum’s important strategic goal of celebrating the art and artists of East Tennessee.” The museum already owns two other works by Wiley, representing other aspects of her career.
“The KMA has no designated funding source to acquire works of art,” noted Executive Director David Butler. “We were able to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity only because friends of the museum generously committed themselves to an additional gift above and beyond their annual operating contributions.”
A student of major American Impressionists such as Robert Reid, Jonas Lie and Martha Walter, Wiley also helped pioneer the art program at the University of Tennessee. She exhibited at notable venues, including the National Academy of Design in New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Tragically, her career ended in 1926 when she suffered a mental breakdown; she remained institutionalized the rest of her life.
“Wiley’s paintings are in demand even outside Tennessee and hardly ever come on the market,” emphasized Case Auctions President John Case. “This one was painted in 1913 at the peak of her career, and the size and subject matter give it a magnificent presence.” The painting, which has been in a Tennessee family’s collection for decades, was estimated at $60/75,000.
Two dozen donors pledged a total of approximately $120,000 to purchase the Catherine Wiley painting. This amount will cover the hammer price, buyer’s premium, cleaning, and conservation.
After the painting has been professionally cleaned, it will take place in “Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee,” the museum’s ongoing installation dedicated to the art of the region.
The museum is downtown at 1050 World’s Fair Park. For general information, 865-525-6101 or www.knoxart.org .
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