Wilgus painted a few landscapes, but was known primarily as a portraitist and depicter of Indians of western New York. In 1840 he was made an honorary member of the National Academy of Design. He lived in New York City as a portrait painter around 1841-1842 and 1845-1847. Because of delicate health, much of Wilgus' adult life was passed in a southern climate, and after 1846 his winters were regularly spent in Savannah, Mobile, or Cuba. He died in Buffalo of consumption in 1853.
[Exerpted from the National Gallery of Art, Systematic Catalogue]
Wilgus, together with Thomas LeClear, William Holbrook Beard, and Lars Sellstedt, formed the core of a prominent, early arts community in Buffalo.
Work by William Wilgus can be found in the National Gallery of Art, the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, the Connecticut Historical Society, and the Yale University Art Gallery.