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 Thomas Frederick McKnight  (1941 - )

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Lived/Active: Connecticut/New York/Kansas      Known for: surreal landscape and figure painting, graphics

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Ad Code: 3
Thomas Frederick McKnight
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from
Thomas McKnight is an artist somewhat out of sync with his times. Born in 1941 In Lawrence, Kansas, by generation he should have been an early Pop artist or a late Neo-Expressionist. But he came of age artistically during the 1970's, when art had practically done itself in with minimalism and conceptual experimentation. His work, full of color and image, seems to be a reaction to that gray decade

McKnight discovered art at about age thirteen when his mother gave him a set of oil paints, and his first painting - a snowy castle on a hill - was similar to those he still creates. When he was sixteen, McKnight's choice of career was confirmed by the famous designer and art director of Harper's Bazaar, Alexey Brodovitch, who told him that he "had it".

After growing up in various suburbs of Washington, D.C., Montreal and New York, he attended Wesleyan University, a small liberal arts college in Middletown, Connecticut, where he was one of only five art majors. Perhaps this fostered his independent, even eccentric, approach to the art "isms" of his time.

He spent his junior year in Paris where he developed a life long love of European civilization. After a year of graduate work in art history at Columbia University, McKnight decided against pursuing a career as an art professor or curator. In 1964 he found a job at Time magazine where he would work for eight years, interrupted by a two year stint in the army in Korea. McKnight held many jobs there, beginning as a file clerk and ending up writing advertising copy.

During a vacation in Greece in 1970, McKnight realized that life in a corporation was not for him. He had been reviewing art for a radio program around that same time, and it became clear to him that the art currently popular was not his cup of tea either. Two years later, with the cushion of his profit-sharing plan, he left Time, summered on the Greek island of Mykonos , and commenced painting in earnest.

His work began to sell, although slowly, in America and Germany. In the early 1980's he discovered a larger audience by creating limited edition serigraph prints. By then he had found that, for his work at the time, the silkscreen technique was a natural choice - its brilliant colors and clean shapes echoed his own visions.

In 1979 in Mykonos , McKnight finally met the muse he had been searching for in Renate, a vacationing Austrian student. The couple married the following year, and Renate moved to America .

Throughout the 1980s McKnight's art became increasingly popular, and by the end of the decade he was at the top of his field: six books (including two in Japanese) had been devoted to his work, and hundreds of silkscreen editions had been sold. His art was perhaps even more well-known in Japan, where he was commissioned to paint a series of views of Kobe for the city's 1993 fair.

In 1994 he was commissioned by the White House to paint the first of three images for President Clinton's official Christmas card. In the mid - nineties McKnight deepened his visions, and in the process began to paint larger and more built-up canvases.

Today, McKnight's work is represented in the permanent collection of New York 's Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the Smithsonian Institute. McKnight and his wife live in a large neo-colonial house in the picturesque village of Litchfield , Connecticut. He has converted the top floor to a loft-like studio where he spends most of his time reading, dreaming, and creating pictures of real and imagined Arcadias.

Biography from Sunflower Fine Art Galleries, Mirrors, & Picture F:
Thomas McKnight’s paintings, serigraphs and posters, phenomenally popular with the public, have placed him in an elite group of contemporary artists whose work can be instantly recognizable as his own.  Be it a carnival in Venice, a sundrenched street in Greece, a cozy well furnished room, a tropical beach or a mythological scene, McKnight’s images invite you to experience the unfettered joy of living. "I try to integrate what is real about a place or thing with its underlying truth its invisible soul," muses the artist. "In the process I try to create a symbolic reality that can serve as a catalyst for emotions, nostalgia, joy, the sadness of time passing." According to noted New York Times critic Gene Thornton, McKnight's work presents "visions of earthly happiness that are almost celestial. It is the vision of earthly paradise that exists in the here and now.  Thomas McKnight's pictures remind us of how good life can be in those rare moments when all is well in the world."

Born in 1941 in Lawrence, Kansas, Thomas McKnight grew up in suburbs of Montreal, New York City and Washington, D.C.  After receiving his Bachelor's Degree from Wesleyan University, he studied art history at Columbia University. He then served in Korea with the army for two years, and later worked for Time Magazine.  Since deciding to devote himself to painting full time in 1972, McKnight’s work has been exhibited in over two hundred and fifty one man shows through out the United States, Europe and Japan, and has appeared everywhere from the cover of Reader’s Digest to pages of Japanese calendars to the walls of restaurants in southern China.  His prints have appeared in numerous movies and television shows including Beverly Hills 90210 and When Harry Met Sally. At a recent Cannes Film Festival, actor director Robert Redford remarked that McKnight was his favorite artist.

McKnight's private, public, corporate and museum collections are too numerous to list here.  In 1988, McKnight’s Constitution was chosen as the official image of the U.S. Constitution Bicentennial.  In fact, Constitution was one of only three art works which First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton chose to bring to Washington from Little Rock when President Clinton was elected.  The serigraph hangs in the White House solarium which serves as the first family's living room.  Longtime McKnight fans, the Clintons asked the artist to create an image for the presidential Christmas card in 1994 and again in 1995.  His warm home and hearth renderings of the White House Red Room and Blue Room at holiday time have now appeared on half a million cards sent out worldwide from the White House.

Six books of McKnight’s art have been published (two in Japan) including the most recent Voyage to Paradise.  He was commissioned by Dennis Connor in 1992 to paint two images commemorating the America's Cup races, and by the city of Kobe, Japan in 1993 to create a series of paintings to serve as the centerpiece for the two year celebration of its tricentennial. After the devastating earthquake which hit Kobe in 1995, McKnight created an earthquake relief poster

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