Born in Valley Forge, PA in 1864, Fred Wagner received a scholarship at age fifteen to study art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under Thomas Eakins. Five years later, in 1884, he was made chief demonstrator of Anatomy. In 1885, Wagner left the Academy to make a painting tour of San Antonio, Texas, and then went on to Los Angeles, California, where he painted a number of landscapes and portraits. He returned to Philadelphia as an illustrator for the Philadelphia Press until 1902 and then moved to Norristown, Pennsylvania, to paint full time.
In 1912, Wagner opened a Philadelphia studio and taught classes in outdoor painting at Adingham, and later, at the Pennsylvania Academy's summer school in Chester Springs. His reputation grew and he took on additional classes at his studio in the Fuller Building.
In 1913, Wagner exhibited in the now famous Armory Show in New York City. He exhibited frequently at the Pennsylvania Academy's annual exhibitions and they awarded him the Fellowship Prize in 1914. He received Honorable Mentions from the Pittsburgh International, the Philadelphia Art Club, and the Carnegie Institute in 1922.
His paintings are in the collections of the Cleveland Museum; St. Louis Museum, MO; Fort Wayne Museum, IN; Kalamazoo Museum, MI; Rochester Museum, NY; Worcester Art Museum, MA; and the Reading Museum, PA.
In addition, Fred was active at the Philadelphia Sketch Club where he enjoyed leisure activities such as chess and playing pool with other area artists. As well as being a life member of the club, Fred served as Vice President for a brief period in 1923.
Fred Wagner died in Philadelphia in 1940.