Born April 24, 1870, in Tiffin, Ohio, John Quinn was the son of James W. and Mary (Quinlan) Quinn, of Irish ancestry on both sides. He studied for one year at the University of Michigan, later receiving LL.B. degrees from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. (1893), and from Harvard (1895). He became the Private Secretary to the Hon. Charles Foster, Secretary of the Treasury in the Harrison Cabinet (1890-93). From 1895 to 1900, Quinn was associated in a New York City practice with Gen. Benjamin F. Tracy, then was a member of Alexander & Colby for the following six years. Quinn headed his own law office beginning in 1906. He was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in France, for services during the war. In 1920-21, he tried and won in the Supreme Court the case that settled the constitutionality of the Trading with Enemy Act and upheld the validity of seizure of alien-owned property in the U.S. An active patron of the arts and literature, Quinn gathered a valuable collection of modern art as well as acquiring the original manuscripts of the author Joseph Conrad. He assisted in the publication of many manuscripts and in procuring patrons for scores of talented young painters. He supported with great interest the modern Irish literary and theatrical movement. He co-organized the International Exhibition of Modern Art (1913) in New York, and conducted a campaign which resulted in the removal of all duty on modern works of art. John Quinn was made an honorary fellow for life of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in recognition of his services in the cause of free art. He died in New York on July 28, 1924.
[Obituary of John Quinn]. New York Times (29 July 1924): 15:3.
John Quinn, 1870-1925 [sic], Collection of Paintings, Water Colors, Drawings & Sculpture. Foreward by Forbes Watson. Huntington, NY, 1926.
Watson, Forbes. "The John Quinn Collection, Part III." The Arts 9 (February 1926): 76-92.
Watson, Forbes. "The John Quinn Collection [Parts I and II]." The Arts 9 (January 1926): 5-22.
Young, Mahonri Sharp. "The Sporting Thing to Do." Apollo 108 (September 1978): 196-197.
Zilczer, Judith. "The noble buyer": John Quinn, patron of the avant-garde. Exh. cat. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 1978.
Zilczer, Judith. "The Dispersal of John Quinn's Collection." The Connoisseur 202 (September 1979): 22-27.
Reid, B.L. The Man From New York; John Quinn and His Friends. New York, 1968.
Hahnloser-Ingold, Margrit. "Collecting Matisses of the 1920s in the 1920s," in Matisse: The Early Years in Nice. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, 1986: 246.