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Artist Biography

One of the most esteemed painters of his generation, Irving Ramsey Wiles launched his career as a portraitist after studying under William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League. Though he kept a studio in New York, Wiles established a lifelong connection with the North Fork of Long Island when he built a home and studio there in 1895. “The Moorings” sat on a high bluff overlooking Peconic Bay, affording the artist abundant opportunity to observe the varied maritime activity before him. Though his schedule was largely taken up with portrait commissions and teaching at his summer art school, Wiles carved out the time to paint the marine pictures which reveal his vast knowledge of—and deep affection for—the sea and its crafts.

Wiles was by all accounts a skilled and enthusiastic sailor, and owned his own sailboat. He also collected highly detailed and accurate model ships, and even served as the first president of the Ship Model Society of New York. In addition to his own vessels, Wiles had access to the fleet of boats that dredged for scallops each season under sail on Peconic Bay, and often traveled to the neighboring town of Greenport to study boats in the busy harbor there.

His mentor Chase (a resident of nearby Shinnecock) considered Wiles to be, along with Sargent, Homer, Weir, Ryder, and Henri, one of the most important American artists of the period. He won numerous awards at the most important juried exhibitions of his day, and enjoyed vast critical and financial success. Yet in looking back at Wiles’ career, scholars have lamented that the artist’s popularity as a portraitist kept him from being able to paint more subjects of his own choosing. Nevertheless, his expressive style pleased his patrons and continues to interest scholars.

His work is housed in renowned collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Gallery of Art, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA; Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO; The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; National Academy of Design Museum, and the New York Historical Society, New York, NY.


Katharine Cameron, The Artist as Teacher: William Merritt Chase and Irving Wiles (1994), p. 5