The daughter of a prosperous coal baron, Catherine Wiley enrolled at the University of Tennessee in 1895, just four years after women became eligible for admission. After two years studying in New York at the Art Students League, she returned to her alma mater to teach art in the home economics department.
Like many women artists working in the Impressionist style, Wiley often chose women to be her sitters. The most captivating aspects of Lady with Parasol are the sunlight and bold impasto. As an extension of her teaching responsibilities Wiley published lectures which reflect her own artistic preferences: “The exhibitions of today are as though flooded with atmosphere—landscapes of vibrating sunlight; . . . [paintings] in which the light of day has crept in, silvering the tops of trees, lighting women’s gowns, touching and revivifying all.”