Painting the Stuffed Animals

Stephen Quinn loves animals— especially painting them. But Quinn does not want his work to be noticed.

Quinn is a wildlife artist at the Museum of Natural History. He designs and constructs life-size dioramas. One of the oldest group of dioramas is the Hall of North American Mammals, which is 70 years-old. Over those decades, the lights in the dioramas bombarded the stuffed animals and natural elements with ultraviolet and infrared rays. Those rays faded fur and dust dulled the eyes of the animals.

So Quinn and his team of three conservators are part of a $2.5 million fur-lift for the fuzzy critters. They spray American brown bears with dye, paint noses for a wet glint and rub the dust of glass eyes for a sparkle.

“It’s great to be a part of the latest blockbuster new dioramas, but it’s an even greater honor to work on these historic and legendary dioramas that really have made the museum what it is today,” said Quinn.

His goal is “ars celare artem”— latin for “art to conceal art.” Quinn wants his art of diorama to be objective truth of the scenes depicted.

Quinn said, “Think of it as the first version of virtual reality.”