Born in 1938 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Thomas Quinn is renowned for his watercolors of the birds and animals of Western America. Although his work lies within the realm of realism, subtlety, elegance, and nuance are the hallmarks of his aesthetic. Quinn’s distinctive style is characterized by a masterful use of composition, space, and color. Adhering to a “less is more” approach, he creates suggestive and very ethereal images of wildlife.
Growing up in Marin County, California, he developed a familiarity with the area’s animals, birds, and plants. His interest was given further impetus when, at age five, he was given a copy of Wild Animals of North America, which featured illustrations by the artist-naturalist Louis Fuertes. Quinn attended the College of Marin and graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California. Then he went to New York, where he made a career illustrating not animals, but people.
In 1966, Quinn was hospitalized for a year. While recuperating, he painted the Canada geese in the vicinity of his Connecticut home. Feeling unfulfilled as an illustrator and wanting to reexperience the environment of his childhood, he moved to Point Reyes Station, California.
Quinn’s paintings have been shown in numerous exhibitions, including shows held at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois; the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco; and the New York Museum of Natural History. Quinn has also been a regular participant and winner of a Gold Medal for Watercolor at the Prix de West. His other awards include the Red Smith Memorial Award, National Museum of Wildlife Art; Gold Medal for Watercolor, NAWA Cowboy Hall; and Master Wildlife Artist Award, Woodson Art Museum.
Quinn’s works are in the permanent collections of the Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin; the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and the Whitney Western Art Museum, Cody, Wyoming. Quinn, who has been raising and training retrievers since the early 1970s, is also the author of The Working Retrievers (1983), considered a definitive treatment of the subject. A lavishly produced book, The Art of Thomas Quinn, containing the paintings and poetry of the artist, was published in 2010.