Irving Ramsey Wiles 1861-1948)

Woman at a Table

  • 22 x 18 inches (55.9 x 45.7 cm)
  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed lower right

Why We Love It

This elegant picture shows off Wiles at his best, painting fashionably dressed women of leisure, which were always his preferred subject matter. This exquisitely tasteful scene is an excellent example of Wiles’ refined use of color, masterful brushwork, and his supreme love of all things beautiful. This graceful painting would certainly be a highly valued addition to any fine art collection.

The Value

Wiles’s paintings of beautiful women in fashionable settings were highly collectible during his own lifetime. They made his reputation as a foremost American Impressionist. To find an example like this, in excellent condition and with all of the most desirable features of his best paintings make this work a wonderful addition to any important American collection.

Artist Background

1861: Born in Utica, New York; 1879: Studied under James Carroll Beckwith and William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League in New York City; 1881: Opened a studio in New York City; 1882: Travelled to Paris and studied under Boulanger and Carolus-Duran; 1883: Returned to New York and did illustrations for “Century,” “Harpers” and “Scribners” magazines; 1884: Exhibited at Paris Salon; 1885-1887: Taught at the Art Students League and at the Chase School; 1886: Awarded the “Hallgarten Prize” at the National Academy of Design; 1887: Married Mary Lee; 1889: Honorable Mention, Paris Exposition; 1893: Bronze Medal, Columbian Exposition; 1897: Gold Medal, Tennessee Centennial Exposition; 1902: First Prize, Corcoran Gallery; 1903: Medal, Universal Paris Exposition; 1905: Juried the Society of American Artists exhibit with Robert Henri; 1910: First one-man show at M. Knoedler and Company; 1915: Exhibited at Detroit Museum of Art; 1916: Second one-man show at Knoedler Galleries; 1919: Maynard Prize, National Academy of Design; 1922: Awarded the Lippincott Prize at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; 1931: Awarded the “Palmer Prize” at the National Academy of Design; 1936: Exhibited at Brooks Memorial Art Gallery; 1943: Awarded the Medal of Honor, American Artist’s Professional League; 1948: Died, July 29, at the age of 87.

Hailed throughout his career as a leading American portraitist and figure painter, Irving Ramsey Wiles enjoyed both critical and commercial success. He was a consummate painter of all things beautiful and remained focused on his preferred subject matter of lovely young women and dashing impressionist landscapes until his death.

Wiles came of age as an artist in America during a period of great change. Long overshadowed by their European counterparts, American artists slowly began to challenge the convention that they lived in a cultural backwater by applying innovative European techniques to distinctly American subjects. Wiles trained with some of the most progressive proponents of the new cosmopolitan spirit in American painting at the Art Students League in New York. While Thomas Wilmer Dewing and J. Carroll Beckwith were important instructors, William Merritt Chase exerted the lasting most influence over Wiles, with the two becoming close personal friends until Chase’s death in 1916.

Woman at a Table is Wiles at his best. The artist preferred painting women at their leisure, elegantly posed and fashionably dressed. These “esprit portraits,” as Charles Caffin wrote in 1907, combined the incredible technical dexterity of Wiles’s virtuoso brushwork, a technique he learned from Chase, with the artist’s ability to capture the charm and character of his sitters. Here Wiles’s subject looks wistfully as she eats alone at an empty table. The viewer is left to speculate about the narrative content of the work, but the lack of significant action is very much in keeping with Wiles’s artistic intentions. He was more interested in capturing the beauty of a particular moment and used vibrant splashes of color, as seen in the orange bows, and special effects of light, as seen in the myriad reflective surfaces, to communicate the elegant interior scenes he was best known for painting.