Thomas Hewes Hinckley was born in Milton, Massachusetts in 1813. In 1829, he went to Philadelphia where he became a merchant's apprentice; while there, he also attended an evening class in drawing at the home of the artist, John Mason. In 1833, he returned to Milton, first finding employment as a sign painter and later as a portraitist. In neither of these areas, however, did Hinckley succeed as he did in the painting of domestic and game animals.
Tuckerman placed Hinckley among those animal artists who had "...made familiar and progressive a class of pictures long prized in Holland, France, and England" by "...illustrating some of the most characteristic traits of animated nature, and making apparent their subtle relation to humanity". Hinckley's patrons were frequently wealthy local squires or gentleman farmers who commissioned portraits of favorite dogs or cattle, as well as landscapes highlighted by prize stock. In 1851 he went to Europe to study the work of Sir Edwin Landseer, and two of his hunting paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. Hinckley also admired and was influenced by the work of the 17th Dutch painter, Albrecht Cuyp (1620-1691). In his notebook entries for 1860 he describes one painting, "Waiting for the Milkmaid", as "Group of Cows a la Cuyp, but better." The appeal of Hinckley's work to hunters and gentleman farmers meant that they sold without difficulty and without the need to be exhibited.
However, Hinckley exhibited at the Boston Art Association (1844), the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia (1848, 1855) The National Academy of Design (1846), the Boston Athenaeum (1863) the Boston Art Club (1873), the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association (1874) and the American Art Union in New York (27 pictures between 1845 and 1852), the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia (1876), and the San Francisco Art Association (1872)-as well as many others. Hinckley's work is well represented in many fine public and private collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Corcoran Gallery, Washington, North Carolina Museum of Art, Shelburne Museum, Vermont, Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, National Museum of American Art, Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Georgia, Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, St. Joseph, Missouri, and the Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, Massachusetts. .