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Catherine Wiley Collection.

Identifier: MSC 0253

Scope and Contents

Includes a small collection of manuscripts and photographs; works on paper: ink drawings and pastels; hand-made greeting cards; personal scrapbook of clippings created by the artist; Medals from the Appalachian Exposition; publications and catalogs related to the artist, including University of Tennessee Volunteer yearbooks for the years Catherine was assisting with the artwork for the publication, 1907, 1910, 1914,1917 Catherine’s palette. The artist’s easel and folding chair (ca. 1910) are also part of the collection. Anna Catherine Wiley (1879-1958), artist, was the fourth of ten children, born to Edwin Floyd Wiley and Mary Catherine AcAdoo Wiley. Edwin Floyd Wiley was a coal mines operator at Coal Creek (later named Lake City). Around 1882 the family moved to Knoxville and lived in the Fort Sanders neighborhood. Wiley received her early education in the public schools of Knoxville and at the University of Tennessee. For several years she studied at the Art Students League in New York under Howard Pyle and Frank V. Dumond. She spent several summers in New England, studying under Robert Reid. From 1905-1918 she taught art at the University of Tennessee when art was taught in the school of home economics. Catherine Wiley won the Cook Medal for the best collection submitted by a local artist in the first major art exhibition held in Knoxville at the 1910 Appalachian Exposition. In 1913 the National Conservation Exposition was held in Knoxville. Catherine served as chairman of the exhibition sponsored by the Fine Arts Committee. Although she painted primarily in East Tennessee, her pictures are said to have an international character and to belong to the school of American Impressionists. Her paintings have hung in exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, National Academy of Design, and Cincinnati Museum of Art. A retrospective exhibition was held at the Dulin Gallery of Art, Knoxville in 1964. A second retrospective exhibition was held at the Knoxville Museum of Art and Tennessee State Museum in 1990. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, has a 1914 painting "Two Girls by the River." In later years she was hospitalized in a mental hospital near Philadelphia, where she died. She was buried in Old Gray Cemetery, Knoxville. Adapted from Heart of the Valley.


  • 1900 - 1926

Conditions Governing Access

Material is available for research. Prior arrangement MUST be made by contacting the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection at


9 boxes

Language of Materials


Custodial History

The original gift was made long ago in 1978, by Agnes Wiley as administrator on behalf of the Wiley family. The idea of a representative collection showing the range of Catherine’s work through time came in good part from her sister, Eleanor McAdoo Wiley. The McClung Historical Collection agreed to accept the entire collection consisting of documents, photographs, slides, drawings and especially paintings, from across the span of her life as an artist.

The scrapbook, a very important source of insight into Catherine’s life and work, has been microfilmed. It is obviously very fragile. There are ribbons and exhibition cards attached to the brittle of the scrapbook. There is one small box of catalogs and issues of magazines which Catherine kept intact.

The two medals which Catherine won were framed together for the 1990 retrospective exhibit. Catherine’s palette is quite fragile now, having separated into two or three parts in the last few years. The easel which Catherine used is coated in historic coal dust from the Fort Sanders family home. The folding chair is the one used when painting—see the small photograph of her sitting in the chair with a painting on the easel. There is also a lovely copy photograph of a youthful Catherine at the peak of her beauty.

We have, oddly enough, three paintings of Mary Catherine Wiley by her daughter Catherine. This very small painting is quite charming and different from the other two. “The Goose Girl” was a small painting which Catherine particularly liked and exhibited. She gave the painting as a personal gift to Agnes Wiley from whom we acquired it.

There are two studies from Catherine’s time in New York in art school. One has been given conservation treatment and framed. It shows a class of young women painting a male nude. Catherine’s study is interesting because it shows her classmates at work. The other, a female nude, is original, untreated condition.

There are some works on paper, only a few of which have been exhibited. Most, but not all, have had conservation treatment. One box contains sketches on paper; the other, watercolors and pastels. It is fairly obvious that Catherine aspired to be an illustrator. The painting of “The Water Babies” is a good example. There are a few small framed items which have rarely been exhibited.

The very touching greeting cards that Catherine made for family members during her years in Norris, Pennsylvania at the mental hospital are the only artwork which she is believed to been able to do during the last thirty years of her life. The cards which we have were kept in a scrapbook by her sister June Lettorey and donated to us by Agnes Wiley.

One very important painting of two young girls under an umbrella at the beach was sold in 1986, at the suggestion of the original donor, to raise money to have conservation work done on the remaining paintings. There are thirty paintings and a number of drawings in the collection, ranging from museum quality works to student work and small studies. Agnes said that Catherine could rarely afford models and painted family and friends. A rare exception was the young woman painted twice, in front of a large number of irises and again in front of a mass of tiger lilies. The latter painting is now in the Johnson Collection.


Gift of Mrs. John E. Wiley on behalf of the Wiley family

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Repository Details

Part of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection Repository

601 S Gay Street
3rd floor
Knoxville Tennessee 37902 United States