Thomas McKnight's Bio

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Thomas McKnight

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.




Biblioteque Nationale , Paris

Metropolitan Museum of Art , New York City , NY

The Mississippi Museum of Art , Jackson , MS

National Museum of Panama

Smithsonian Institute , Washington , D.C.

Springfield Museum of Art , Springfield , MO

Tucson Museum of Art , Tucson , AZ

Wesleyan University , CT



Avon Collection

Atlantic Richfield Corporation

Bell Telephone

Bank of America

Credit Lyonnaise


General Electric

IBM Corporation

Johnson & Johnson

Knott Hotel Chain

Metropolitan Insurance Company

New York Times

Reader's Digest

Sheraton Hotel Corporation

Warner Communications



President and Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton

United States Department of State

Numerous United States and international private collections



1988 U. S. Constitution Bicentennial, selected official
artist, Bicentennial Commission

1992 Easter Eggs, Commissioned by the U. S. Government:
Exhibits at The White House and the Smithsonian Institute
commissioned by the President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan

1993 City of Kobe Japan , Urban Fair city commission

1994, 1995, 1996 Official White House Christmas Cards
depicting the White House Red Room, Blue Room and Green Room
commissioned by First Lady Hillary R. Clinton

2000 Art in Embassies Program, 2 paintings displayed at the
residence of U. S. Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns
in Athens , Greece

1998 Wesleyan University , Middletown CT ,
Distinguished Alumni Award

McKnight, Venetian Afternoon



McKnight, Venetian Evening



McKnight, New England Fantasy



McKnight, Chatham\



McKnight, Manhattan Nocturne

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