James Quinn was born in Melbourne and trained at the NGV School before studying in Paris from the mid-1890s to 1902. Living in London from about 1902 onwards, he exhibited at the Royal Academy and the French Salon. During World War I he served as an official war artist; in 1919 he was appointed an official artist with the Canadian War Records alongside Augustus John, William Orpen and others. Having established his reputation as a portrait painter, specialising in military and political leaders, he returned to Australia in 1935, serving as president of the Victorian Artists’ Society for most of the years between 1937 and 1950. A retrospective of his work was mounted at the VCA in 1980. His works are held by the National Gallery, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Art Gallery of South Australia, the Queensland Art Gallery and the Australian War Memorial as well as many regional galleries.