Early on, Quinn’s artistic vision was judged unique and mature. His achievement as an artist is best understood as a synthesis of his outlook on life and art, his American roots, and his European experiences. He forged these elements into an artistic style which he has developed with great integrity and steadfastness.
Quinn taught drawing and painting at Washington University. His 33-year teaching career enabled him to dialogue with American and European painters on the latest ideas and issues in contemporary art, and his class duties were minimal, allowing him ample time for his work.
Quinn’s love affair with Europe began as early as 1957 when the University awarded him a Milliken Foreign Travel Scholarship to spend a year painting in Rome. Subsequently he spent sabbaticals in Greece (1963) and Paris (1982), and often painted during summers in Europe. In his work, Quinn uniquely synthesized the elements of the European modernists with the gestural style of “Action Painting” common to certain American Abstract Expressionists.
After completing his teaching career in 1991 Quinn moved with his Belgian-born wife Jeannine to Bruges. In this “European Period” he pulled out all the stops. The paintings are spacious and bold, often with surprising color combinations that have always been an engaging aspect of his work.
Many of the recent works have white grounds in tension with aggressive, contrasting planes. Others have linear structures that seem to create a “real” space, but then the lines dart back to surface, asserting the paintings’ two-dimensionality, sometimes suggesting landscape or figurative elements.
William Quinn works on one painting at a time, not in a series, as he abhors repeating himself. As a result, each painting is a new experience both for the painter and viewer. Throughout the years Quinn has exhibited widely in the U.S. and Europe, winning many prizes in competitive exhibitions. Perhaps the strongest validation of the strength and truth of Quinn’s vision is the amazing zest with which he continues to pour forth images that are ever fresh and new, full of the power to enchant.