(Boston, Massachusetts, 1898 - 1976, California)
McLaughlin did not take up painting until midlife. After graduating from Andover, he served in the U.S. Navy from 1917-1921. Married in 1928, he spent the early 1930s selling real estate in Boston and Chicago. In 1935 he and his wife moved to Japan, where McLaughlin studied Japanese art and language. Returning to Boston in 1938, the couple opened an art gallery that sold Japanese prints and objects d’art from China and Japan. In 1941 McLaughlin returned to his studies of the Japanese language, this time at the University of Hawaii at Honolulu, and served as a translator for the US Marine Corps. Once the U.S. entered World War II, McLaughlin worked in U.S. Army Intelligence as a translator in China, Burma and India. His efforts resulted in the receipt of a Bronze Star for meritorious service.
In 1946 the McLaughlins settled in Dana Point in Southern California. John had started teaching himself to paint in the 1930s, but did not work full-time at it until Dana Point. After briefly experimenting with landscapes and still lifes, McLaughlin found his vocabulary in the language geometric abstraction. From 1952 on, he eliminated curves, devoting himself entirely to the rectilinear (perhaps what he meant by “neutral forms”), and increasingly limited his palette to a few colors plus blacks, whites and grays.