Guy Wiggins was the son of noted landscape painter Carleton Wiggins, so he grew up surrounded by art. After some years of living in Europe, the Wiggins family settled in Water Mill, Long Island, in 1892. Around 1900 Guy enrolled in the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn to study architecture and drafting. He soon ended his schooling to pursue classes in painting at the National Academy of Design in New York City, where he studied first under William Merritt Chase and later under Robert Henri. Although he never studied in France, Wiggins’ painting style is based on French Impressionism, most likely influenced by the work of Childe Hassam and John Henry Twachtman.
Wiggins looked to his urban surroundings for artistic inspiration and found New York City’s architecture, bustling streets, and landmarks to be fitting subject matter for his work. His talents were quickly recognized, and he was already a success by 1912, when his painting The Metropolitan Tower was purchased by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was not until the 1920s, however, that he began painting his most popular scenes—winter cityscapes. He later recalled:
One cold, blustering day I was in my New York studio trying to paint a summer landscape. Things wouldn’t go right and I sat idly looking out the window at nothing. Suddenly I saw what was before me—an elevated railroad track with a train dashing madly through the whirling blizzard-like snow that made hazy and indistinct the row of buildings on the far side of the street... Well, when I gave an exhibition a short time afterward…the winter canvases were sold before anything else. In a week I was established as a painter of city winter scenes.
During the mid-1930s and the 1940s, Wiggins had a studio on Washington Square South with a view facing the park. He later recalled in 1948 that he “painted every angle of the Square from that window, at all hours and in all kinds of weather, as well as all seasons of the year. New York has always been my favorite subject, especially streets in snow storms.”
During the summer months, Wiggins often visited the family home in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where he also painted rural landscapes. There he established the Guy Wiggins Art School and was an active member of the art colony that flourished there. He was involved with the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, for which he juried shows and served as president for many years. Wiggins received many awards and prizes, including the prestigious Norman Wait Harris Bronze Medal from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1917. In 1916 he was elected an associate member of the National Academy of Design, and in 1936 he was made academician. His works are housed in numerous private collections and institutions, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.; Art Institute of Chicago, and the Newark Museum His son, Guy A. Wiggins, also became a painter.