Wylie studied in the schools of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, later serving a curator. In 1860, he helped found the Philadelphia Sketch Club, now one of the nation's oldest artists' clubs. His early work as a sculptor in Philadelphia is little known, with only a few works positively attributed to him.
In 1863, the directors of the Pennsylvania Academy sent Wylie to France to study. He went to Pont-Aven, Brittany, in the early 1860s, where he remained until his death there in 1877. He painted Breton peasants and scenes in the history of Brittany; among his important works was a large canvas, "The Death of a Vendean Chief," now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. He won a medal of the second class at the Paris Salon of 1872.
- Myers, Julia Rowland. "Robert Wylie: Philadelphia sculptor, 1856-1863", Archives of American Art Journal, v. 40 no. 1/2 (2000) p. 4-17.
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