Raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, Catherine Wiley attended the University of Tennessee before spending two years with Frank DuMond at the Art Students League in New York. Returning to Knoxville in 1905, she began a thirteen-year teaching stint at the university, while also pursuing a career in painting. She exhibited locally, at the National Academy of Design in New York, and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia; in 1910, Wiley won the H. J. Cook gold medal at the Appalachian Exposition. Two years later, the artist returned briefly to New York to study with the American impressionist Robert Reid, whose style she admired, and later worked with Jonas Lie at the New York School of Applied Arts on Long Island.
Influenced by Reid, Wiley adopted an impressionist manner and, around 1912, began to paint scenes of women in comfortable interiors or in sun-drenched gardens. Characteristically, the figures are depicted in floral environments, dressed in white or soft pastel colors, and almost always carrying parasols.
Sadly, Wiley's career was cut short in 1926 when a mental breakdown forced her to be hospitalized. She spent the rest of her life in an institution, never painting again.
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