He was born on March 1, 1890. He was abandoned by his biological parents at birth, and is raised at the Casa de Niños Expósitos, until at the age of seven is adopted by the Chinchela family. He attends the school directed by the drama teacher and writer José Berrutti (1897). He starts his art studies at the Conservatorio de Pezzini-Sttiatessi attending night painting classes with the maestro Alfredo Lazzari. During these years he makes contact with the artistic atmosphere of the neighborhood and meets Fortunato Lacámera, Guillermo Facio Hebequer, Juan de Dios Filiberto and Santiago Stagnaro who will later become his great friends.
In 1914, he takes part in the Primer Salón de Recusados and, in 1916 he is published at the Fray Mocho magazine, the first article to comment on his work. In 1918, he holds his first individual exhibit at the Witcomb gallery. That same year, through Facio Hebequer, he meets Pío Collivadino, who encourages him to continue the work that will eventually identify him as the painter of La Boca and its port.
In 1920, he receives the third prize at the Salón Nacional with his work Escenas de trabajo (Work scenes) and, during the 1920’s, he exhibits at Río de Janeiro (1920); Madrid (1923); Paris (1926); New York (1928); La Habana (1928); Rome (1929) and London (1930).
In the 1930’s, Quinquela Martín founds and presides the “La Peña” group which met at the Castelar Hotel, which would eventual turn into a meeting place for plastic artists and writers.
In 1933, he buys a piece of land and donates it to the Government in order to build the Escuela-Museo Pedro de Mendoza, which opens its doors in 1936, and the Museo de Bellas Artes de La Boca which opens under his direction in 1938. In the upper floors of this building he sets his new workshop and his new living quarters, which today are part of the museum.
In 1935, he makes numerous ceramic pieces, among which we can find Desfile del Circo (Circus parade) and Saludo a la Bandera (Salute to the flag), which belong to the patrimony of the Escuela-Museo de la Boca, Hospital Santojanni and the Lactario Municipal Nº 2.
Quinquela makes other donations and grants several pieces of land to build educational institutions such as the present Escuela de Artes Gráficas Armada Argentina and the Colegio Industrial, which are inaugurated in 1950. Between 1957 and 1968, he builds the theater “Teatro de la Ribera”, which starts its activities in 1971. In 1959, the Instituto Odontológico Infantil opens its doors, which is known today as the Hospital Municipal de Odontología Infantil Don Benito Quinquela Martín.
Towards 1939, he concentrates on etching and records a series of about 60 sheets, representing the work at the port.
In 1943, he is elected as a member of the Comisión Directiva del Círculo de Bellas Artes and exhibits at the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes de Tucumán. He holds an individual exhibit at Witcomb gallery (1944). In 1948, he creates the Orden del Tornillo (The Order of the Screw), of which he will become Grand Maestre. In 1949, he exhibits in Mendoza and in La Plata. In 1953, he takes part with his work at the inauguration of the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bahía Blanca.
In 1959, he organizes together with Victorica, a retrospective exhibition of Lazzari at the Witcomb gallery.
In 1955, he shows his work at the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes “Emilio A. Caraffa” with the sponsorship of the government of Córdoba. The following year his work appears at the Palacio Municipal de Tres Arroyos. In 1959, his work is shown at the Salón Dorado del Palacio Municipal de La Plata, an occasion where the city acquires one of his pieces for the Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes. In August 1961, he holds an individual exhibit at the Witcomb gallery in Buenos Aires and in 1964 he takes part in the XVIII Muestra Itinerante de Artistas Plásticos Nacionales, de Retiro a Jujuy, made on board the Cinta de Plata train.
In 1972, he is named Honorary Member of the Universidad de Buenos Aires teaching staff. In 1974, he is honored by the Fondo Nacional de las Artes and a retrospective exhibition of his work is held at the Salas Nacionales de Exposición (Palais de Glace).
Quinquela dies in Buenos Aires, on January 28, 1977.
His work is part of the Museo de Bellas Artes de La Boca; the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Buenos Aires; the Museo Colonial de Bellas Artes in Corrientes; the Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes “Juan B. Castagnino” in Rosario; the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes “Rosa Galisteo de Rodríguez” in Santa Fe; the Museo de Bellas Artes in Paraná, Entre Ríos; the Museo de Artes Plásticas in Mercedes, San Luis; the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes in Mendoza; the Museo Hispanoamericano Dámaso Arce in Olavarría, province of Buenos Aires.
Other places that show his work are: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid; the Museo de Luxemburgo in Paris; the Museum of Metropolitan Art in New York; the Galleria Nazionale D'Arte Moderna in Rome; the Palacio de Guanabara and the Museo de Bellas Artes in Río de Janeiro; the British museums of Birmingham, Cardiff and Sheffield, among others; the Museo Otago of New Zeland; the Museo de Bellas Artes in Santiago de Chile; the Museo de Bellas Artes in Montevideo; the Museo de Bellas Artes in Jerusalem, etc.