John Quinn


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American lawyer, collector, and patron. Quinn was of Irish ancestry and came to collecting through purchasing manuscripts of Irish literary works. He did not start collecting paintings and sculpture until after the turn of the century, but he then rapidly became a major figure in the field of avant-garde art; indeed, he was described by Alfred H. Barr as ‘the greatest American collector of the art of his time’. He was legal representative to the Armory Show (1913), and was a major lender to and purchaser at the exhibition. It introduced him to Brancusi's work, and from then until his death eleven years later, Quinn was Brancusi's most important patron, buying most of his output. He also collected the work of Matisse, Picasso, and Rousseau, as well as various Americans. Especially notable was his patronage of leading figures in British modernism, including Augustus John, whom he met in London in 1909, Epstein and Gaudier-Brzeska. (His interest in the last two came through his friendship with Ezra Pound). Quinn also played an important role in creating a buoyant art market in New York by successfully campaigning for works of art less than twenty years old to be exempt from import duty. His collection was known only to his friends during his lifetime, but in 1926 part of it was shown in a memorial exhibition at the New York Art Center. The collection was sold at auction in Paris and New York in 1926–7. Its dispersal encouraged A. E. Gallatin to open his own collection to the public as the Museum of Living Art in New York.

Subjects: Art — Literature.

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