Thomas Aquinas Daly (American, 1937-) contemporary painter, etcher and author known for his landscapes, still lifes, and wildlife paintings in oil or watercolor, as well as etchings. Educated as a graphic artist at the University of Buffalo, Daly spent 23 years working in the commercial printing business before leaving in 1981 to devote his full attention to painting. Since then, his work has been displayed in numerous solo exhibitions at galleries, museums and universities throughout the country. President Gerald R. Ford recognized Daly’s talent by awarding him the Grand Central Art Gallery’s Gold Medal at the opening of his 1987 show in New York.
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Daly paints what he knows, and the result is a collection of poetic landscape and still life paintings that embody a unique fidelity to the enduring themes of land and nature. With a sportsman’s reasons to roam the landscape, he translates his sensitive perceptions into luminous, expressive watercolors and oil paintings that have successfully bridged the gap between sporting and fine art. Combining strong graphic design with a sophisticated sense of color and shape, he has drawn an appreciative audience far beyond the realm of outdoor art. Yet, his deep personal bond with the natural world strikes an emotional chord familiar to sportsmen and naturalists as well, earning him a position at the top of the sporting art genre. “His work is about the land - quiet, confident meditations upon the spirit of a place without the need for assertiveness,” wrote one critic. Perhaps Daly’s preeminent skill is in describing the myriad nuances of light and atmosphere that are apparent only to one intimately attuned to the vagaries of his environment.
In addition to his paintings, Daly has produced two books: Painting Nature’s Quiet Places, (Watson-Guptill, 1985) and The Art of Thomas Aquinas Daly: The Painting Season (1998). His paintings have also appeared in several other publications, among them: The Ultimate Fishing Book, The Sweet of the Year, The Sporting Life, The Art of Shooting Flying, The Atlantic Salmon Chronicles, Bogdan and The Fine Art of Angling: Ten Modern Masters. Additionally his work has been featured in periodicals such as Gray’s Sporting Journal, Arts Magazine, American Artist, Sports Afield, Sporting Classics, Wildlife Art News, Watercolor and Southwest Art (specific info and articles on the above publications can be found below under the headings: Publications by the artist; Books featuring the artist/work and Magazine articles).
The following excerpts are from author Diane K. Inman’s biography on Thomas Aquinas Daly in the Art of Angling:
Thomas Aquinas Daly lives an Arcadian lifestyle—both literally and figuratively. He was raised near Buffalo, New York and schooled in Niagara Falls, a city that in the 1940s he says was “horrible and dirty”, a city he could not wait to escape. “I had something in my makeup that made me want to be in the country.” When he discovered his twenty acre farm in Arcade, New York, he says “I felt like I had come home.” And here, for the last 21 years, he is happy, living in a 200 year old house, painting in his barn loft, living as close to nature as the modern world will allow. Each fall he sets up deer stands in his woods and readies his homemade bows and arrows for the fall hunt. All year his wife Chris prepares gourmet meals almost entirely from his kills and homegrown fruits and vegetables. While some might call him reclusive, this writer found him to be warm and natural, perfectly at harmony with himself and the world.
As an artist, Daly’s reputation is absolutely secure. In 1989, when the Burchfield Art Center at Buffalo State College presented a one man show of Daly’s work, Anthony Bannon, the Director, wrote, “If churches were built for the adoration of the sportsman’s landscape, the works by Thomas Aquinas Daly would be appropriate altarpieces.” Just a glance at the works included here will explain what he meant. Daly has devoted his life and his talent, first and foremost, to painting nature. Man, in many cases the lone fisherman, is dwarfed by the grandeur of nature and humbled by his reliance on its bounty. Daly says the lone fisherman is “a motif that is common in my landscapes. He characterizes a harmonious relationship with nature, a person quietly drawing sustenance from his environment. He often transports the viewer directly into the scene by providing a source of self-identification, thereby further enhancing one’s personal involvement with the landscape.” (from Painting Nature’s Quiet Places, p. 124). While Daly does not claim to be a religious person, despite his traditional Catholic upbringing, it is clear that creating paintings is a spiritual experience for him. In the preface to The Art of Thomas Aquinas Daly: The Painting Season, published in 1998, he spoke of his reluctance to interrupt his balanced schedule, saying “The creative process is an elusive thing, and when it is functioning well, I am reluctant to disrupt it.”
Born in 1937, Daly was educated exclusively in urban Catholic schools. As a child he excelled in art and was therefore encouraged to use this talent. Like most young boys of his era, he was fascinated with hunting and fishing. He recalls spending hours thumbing through magazines such as Outdoor Life and Field and Stream. “What began as a childhood fascination of becoming more intimate with animals and their habits and environments, expanded to become an artistic discipline,” says C. Langer in her introductory essay to The Art of Thomas Aquinas Daly. Daly attended the University of Buffalo from 1955 to 1959 majoring in graphic art. After graduation, Daly went to work for Greater Buffalo Press, where he remained, ultimately as art director for twenty three years. During all this time he was raising a family and continuing to paint on his own, but he explains, “The company owned me; I stayed because I was making good money at that time--$12 to $15 an hour.” Needless to say, when he finally turned in his badge and walked away, he made more money as a fine artist than he ever would have in publishing.
Daly explains that the transition from art director to practicing artist did not happen overnight. However, several factors influenced his future. First there was “a chance meeting in 1969 with still-life painter Bruce Kurland (American, 1938), who became a friend and teacher.” Then there were numerous hunting and fishing trips which fueled his imagination and creative senses. There was his divorce from his first wife, his marriage to Christine, and his move to Arcade, as well as the landmark Burchfield Art Center Show. After the show, Bruce Kurland asked if he could take some of Daly’s work to show Jim Cox, the director of New York’s Grand Central Art Gallery. The rest, as they say, is history.
It is clear that Daly has, from the start, been a student of art. In his college days, he discovered the still-life compositions of Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin (French, 1699-1779). He began to study how the “trompe l’oeil” deception was executed. Equally, he was impressed with the watercolors of J.M.W. Turner (English, 1775-1851), “noting how the thin transparent washes over white paper created an ethereal radiance.”-Sanger. He was impressed with the simplified forms of Japanese prints, an influence that can readily be seen in Daly’s still lifes. And most of all, there is his fascination with what light does. Some scholars have labeled Daly a “luminist”. While Daly eschews such labels, he confesses that “I’m always looking for the dramatic—with light and dark contrasting.” He also credits the Abstract Expressionists of his day (Pollock, de Kooning, Kline and Motherwell) with making him “acutely aware of the importance of surface and the physical properties of paint.”
Like all artists, Daly paints what he knows best. He claims that “I perpetually assess the visual world around me.” Angling, near home and far away, has fueled his imagination and provided him with some of his most impressive works. In his 1998 book, he speaks of his introduction to fishing when he was fifteen. His mother dropped him off to spend the day at the trout hatchery in Caledonia, NY. He says, “Once I set my eyes upon those wondrous trout quietly feeding in the crystalline water of Spring Creek, my life would never be the same.” When he returned, he purchased his first fly rod, and “Until I was old enough to drive myself, I would hitchhike at every opportunity the fifty miles that separated me from Spring Creek. . . .Having no boots, I waded in the frigid, spring fed water of the creek in my bare feet. They would be numb at the end of the day, but I was oblivious.” After college, when Orvis was vigorously promoting fly fishing, Daly relates that he used to teach fly casting, but he was turned off by the commercializing of the quiet activity he loved. Later, his move to Arcade put him within minutes of some of the best fly fishing streams in New York.
While Daly is doing more oil work of late, his first love is watercolor, a medium he has certainly mastered. In Painting Nature’s Quiet Places, he states “Watercolor is a medium capable of producing a depth and resonance that elude many painters. By literally working into the paper, scrubbing, sanding, building layer upon layer, a richness and patina can evolve. . .While the final application of pigment may be completed in seconds, the preparation of the surface to receive it and ultimately enrich it is usually a time-consuming endeavor.”
While Daly paints terrific landscapes, he is also equally known for his subtle still lifes. Daly admits, “I cannot achieve with watercolor the deep, rich tones that some of my still-life ideas demand. Oils not only provide the strong darks that I seek, but they additionally allow me a greater control when I wish to create a more subtle and delicate modeling of form.”
It is clear that Thomas Aquinas Daly is at home with nature and able to transfer that feeling to his viewer. In Painting Nature’s Quiet Places, he says “Whenever I paint a place that is special to me, I hope that I can effectively reproduce the same sense of spiritual well-being in the viewer as I have experienced myself. . . . One’s ego can readily vanish in the face of a mightier force, resulting in a refreshing clarity and inner peace. One reassuring thread of consistency in our often schizoid lives is nature’s adherence to its own quiet and eternal laws.”
1937- Born, March 27th, Albany, NY. Adopted by Grace and John Daly of Niagara Falls, NY.
1955- Graduated from Bishop Duffy High School, Niagara Falls, NY.
1955-1959- Attended the Albright Art School at the University of Buffalo, majoring in Graphic Design, Buffalo, NY.
1959- Began 23 year career with Greater Buffalo Press, employed as lithographer and art director, Buffalo, NY.
1979- Bruce Kurland showed paintings to James Cox at Grand Central Art Gallery in New York. Work was subsequently included in the “Seven Realists” exhibit there.
1980- Exhibited, first solo exhibition at the Grand Central Art Gallery, NYC.
1981- Left job to paint full time. Exhibited solo, at the Stremmel Gallery, Reno, NV. Exhibited solo, Keny Galleries, Columbus, OH.
1983- Exhibited, solo show, at Grand Central Art Galleries, NYC.
1984- Exhibited, solo show, at the Wolfe Gallery, Tuscon, AZ. Exhibited solo, at Keny Galleries, Columbus, OH.
1985- Watson Guptill published his book Painting Nature's Quiet Places. Exhibited solo, at Grand Central Art Galleries, NYC.
1986- Exhibited solo show, at Keny Galleries, Columbus, OH.
1987- Received Gold Medal from President Gerald R. Ford at opening of show at Grand Central Art Galleries. Exhibited, solo show, at Grand Central Art Galleries, NYC.
1989- Exhibited, solo show, at the Tyler Art Gallery, State University of New York (SUNY), Oswego, NY. Exhibited, solo show, at the Roland Gibson Gallery, SUNY, Potsdam, NY. Exhibited solo, at the Burchfield Art Center (now the Burchfield-Penney Art Center), SUNY, Buffalo, NY.
1990- Exhibited, solo show, "Thomas Aquinas Daly", Cumming Nature Center, a division of the Rochester Museum & Science Center, Rochester, NY. Exhibited solo, at G & R Gallery, Buffalo, NY.
1991- August 31-October 6, exhibited, solo show, "Thomas Aquinas Daly", 60 oils & watercolors shown, held in the Audubon Tunnicliffe Gallery of The John L. Wehle Gallery Of Sporting Art, Genesee Country Museum, Mumford, NY.
1991-92- Exhibited, solo show, at Keny Galleries, Columbus, OH.
1994- Exhibited, solo show, at Gerold Wunderlich & Co., NYC.
1995- Exhibited, solo show, at the American Museum of Fly Fishing, Manchester, VT.
1998- Published The Art of Thomas Aquinas Daly: The Painting Season. Exhibited solo, at the Mill Gallery, Rochester, NY.
2003- Exhibited, solo show, at the Frederic Remington Museum, Ogdensburg, NY.
2008- Exhibited, solo show, at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, family exhibit with his wife Christine and son Jonathan, “Family Pictures”, Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY.
2013- July 28-September 8, exhibited, solo show, "Thomas Aquinas Daly: Quiet Places", Kenan Center House Gallery, Lockport, NY. August 7-September 1, exhibited, group show, "Albrightmen 2013" Graduates of the former Albright Art School University of Buffalo-Class of 1959", which included artists Ronald Coniglio, Thomas J. Dalbo, Thomas Aquinas Daly, Patrick J. Hayes, Richard Macakanja and Eugene A. Rogalski, The Charles E. Burchfield Nature and Art Center, West Seneca, NY.
Publications by the artist: Painting Nature's Quiet Places, (Watson-Guptill, 1985); The Art of Thomas Aquinas Daly: The Painting Season, (Daly, 1998).
Publications (books): A Man Made of Elk, David Petersen (2007); The Art of Angling, Diane K. Inman (2007); The Art of Shooting Flying, D. Taylor ( GSJ Press, 1990); Atlantic Salmon Chronicles, E.R. Nightingale (Sycamore Island Books, 2000); Bogdan, G.R. Hilyard (Frank Amato, 2006); The Earth is Enough, H. Middleton (Pruett, 1996); Field Notes: Reflections of Anglers and Hunters, S. McCabe, ed. (Washington and Lee University, 2000); Game Cookery, R. Camp (Wild Duck Press, 1983); Gray's Fish Cookbook, R. Gray (GSJ Press, 1986); Gray's Wild Game Cookbook, R. Gray (GSJ Press, 1983); On the Spine of Time, H. Middleton (Pruett , 1997); The Sporting Life, L. Sheehan (Clarkson Potter, 1992); The Sweet of the Year, R. P. Baker (Begos, 1996); The Ultimate Fishing Book, L. Eisenberg & D. Taylor (Houghton Mifflin, 1981).
Magazine articles: American Artist, "The Watercolor Page: Thomas Aquinas Daly", August 1981, cover & p.54 -57; American Artist, "Representing Realist Artist", May 1987; American Artist, "A Survey of Contemporary Wildlife Art", by P. Van Gelder, April, 1985; Art Today, "Thomas Aquinas Daly: Nature's Interpreter", by Patricia Black Bailey, Summer 1987; Arts Magazine, "Thomas Aquinas Daly", by Sandra Langer, Summer 1985; Atlantic Salmon Journal, an article appeared circa 1992; Bugle, "Thomas Aquinas Daly: Defining Artful Sport", by David Petersen, Nov-Dec 2000, p. 70-80; Gray's Sporting Journal, "Thomas Aquinas Daly: Sporting Art as Autobiography", by Brooke Chilvers, Feb-Mar. 2007, p. 70-72; Gray's Sporting Journal, a cover story was done sometime around 1980 and several paintings have also been randomly featured in various issues; New York State Conservationist, "The Art of Thomas Aquinas Daly", by Wayne Trimm, April 1999, cover and p.13 -15; New York Times, 'The Art of Hunting Deer the Old Fashioned Way”, by Steve Bodo, Nov 21, 2007; Sports Afield, " Thomas Aquinas Daly", by Barbara Cotton, 1984; Sports Afield, "Sports Afield Selects America's Top Twelve Contemporary Outdoor Artists", Oct. 1987, p. 58-59; Sporting Classics, "Pigment and Passion", by Terry Wieland, July/August 1987, p. 40-49; Sporting Classics, "Painting Nature's Quiet Places", review by Thomas Quinn, July/August 1985, p. 25-28; Sporting Classics, "Artist's Choice", Special Millennium Issue, Jan/Feb 2000, p.105; Traditional Bowhunter, "Thomas Aquinas Daly: Sportsman, Bowyer, Artist", by David Petersen, Dec/Jan 2005, cover and p. 46-54; U.S. Art, "Thomas Aquinas Daly: Capturing the Rhythm of Nature", by Christopher Waddington, 1989; Watercolor, "Aiming for Masterpieces: Thomas Aquinas Daly", by Mark Mitchell, Spring 1992, p.96-97; Watercolor, "The Art of Thomas Aquinas Daly: The Painting Season", Winter 2000, cover and p. 98-107; Wildlife Art News, "Still Life / Real Life", by Terry Wieland, 1989; Wildlife Art News, "Interview with Thomas Aquinas Daly", by Terry Wieland, 1995.
For more information on Thomas Aquinas Daly or for other possible images of his work, please visit the AskArt.com link
(Compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY, 09/2008, from sources: Biographical information and additional information with excerpts from author Diane K. Inman’s biography on Thomas Aquinas Daly in The Art of Angling, all with permission from the Daly family)