Irving Ramsey Wiles (1861–1948)
The Loiterers, 1887
Oil on canvas, 18 x 24 in.
Signed and dated lower left: Irving R. Wiles 1887
Provenance: private collection, New Jersey
Exhibited: National Academy of Design, 1887, no. 243; Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, New York, La Belle Époque and Toulouse-Lautrec, June 8-September 7, 2003
Illustrated: Harper’s Weekly, April 9, 1887 (hanging in exhibition); drawing by Frank DuMond after the Harper’s photograph, History and Highlights of the National Academy of Design, 2000; La Belle Époque and Toulouse-Lautrec, exh. cat., 67.
The Loiterers depicts Wiles and his wife Mary “lingering over the remnants of their repast at a restaurant table,” probably drinking Café Brulot. Both figures are watching the preparation of the drink, which entails pouring cognac or brandy over a sugar cube, lighting the cube on fire, and then dropping the cube into a cup of coffee. The painting closely relates to one of Wiles’ entries at the previous annual exhibition, The Corner Table (illustrated in Christie’s catalogue, December 4, 2003, lot 33), in which Mary appears in a similar costume. This painting draws on Manet’s famous Le Bar aux Folies-Bergere (c. 1881-82, Courtauld Institute of Arts, London) both in the frontality of the image and in the use of a mirror. More generally, the image reflects Wiles’ early adoption of elements of French Impressionism, as seen in the bohemian subject matter of The Loiterers.
 “The National Academy Exhibition,” Art Amateur 16, no. 6 (May 1887), 125.