January 18, 2023 | By SAM BOLTON AND EMILY RANDOLPH
Catching Anthony Quinn’s Eye
Most know Anthony Quinn for his highly acclaimed film and stage career. His roles were widely varied in films playing everything from Indians, mafia dons, Hawaiian Chiefs, Filipino freedom fighters, Chinese guerrillas and Arab sheiks. He was well rewarded for his work, picking up a pair of Academy awards for his roles in Viva Zapata! in 1952 and Lust For Life in 1956 playing artist Paul Gauguin.
Other notable roles include Zorba the Greek both on film and stage, La Strada, Wild is the Wind, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Lawrence of Arabia and Lion in the Desert. In all he appeared in over 200 films spanning over six decades.
What you might not know is that in addition to his acting career, and just as enduring, was his work as an artist.
Manuel Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca was born in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1915 to a Mexican mother and an Irish immigrant father. The family moved first to El Paso, Texas and later settled in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles where his father became an assistant cameraman at a movie studio.
As a youngster Quinn boxed professionally to help support himself and his family. In addition, he always had an interest in painting and drawing. During his teens, he won various art competitions and focused his studies at Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles on drafting.
Quinn’s art education up to that point was completely self taught, having never attended art school but taking advantage of books and museums. It was during this period that one of his architectural drawings won first prize, which was a meeting with Frank Lloyd Wright.
Quinn then formed a close friendship with Wright and began studying architecture under his tutelage. It was actually Wright who advised his young student to take diction lessons to improve his speech, saying that it would help him communicate his ideas better as an architect.
The lessons led to an interest in acting and when Quinn was offered a contract with Paramount Studios for $800 a week, he was conflicted. Wright famously told him, “Take it. You will never make that much with me.”
Although always creating art throughout his career as an actor, his artistic career kicked into high gear in his later years.
While on location for films he sketched his designs and would create tiny “maquettes” which he would later reinterpret into full size bronze, steel and wood sculpture. His studio today is brimming with over 5000 works including sketches, paintings and sculptures. One can clearly see at a glance the influence Picasso and many of the twentieth-century artists had on Quinn’s work.