George Elbert Burr



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George Elbert Burr Painter

George Elbert Burr pittore

George Elbert Burr was an American painter and engraver, known mainly for the series of engravings and drypoints dedicated to the Western United States and the its wild and unique landscapes. Born in 1859 in Munroe Falls, Ohio, he spent the first ten years of his life in the great Midwestern state before moving to Cameron, Missouri, where his father had opened a general store.
He trained under the guidance of his mother and enrolled at the Chicago Academy of Design in 1878, only to return to his father's home a year later. Continuing to work with his father, he began his artistic journey by dedicating himself to engravings for Harper's, Scribner's Magazine, The Cosmopolitan and Frank Leslie's Weekly thanks to which he traveled extensively throughout the United States, deepening his knowledge of those landscapes that would become the center of his artistic poetics. His illustrations were also published in Volume II of John Muir's Picturesque California, a circumstance which contributed to his professional growth and which led him to work for several months between 1888 and 1889 , as submitted to the Observer.
1892 was a crucial year for Burr's life and works: he was hired by the very rich businessman Heber R. Bishop, starts the project for the creation of the illustrated catalog of the philanthropist's collection of over a thousand pieces of jade antiquities, a collection that will then be donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The assignment allows him to achieve a certain economic stability which he exploits by embarking on a long tour of Europe lasting five years, together with his wife Beth. It is a period of feverish activity for the artist who visits Italy, Germany and Great Britain, creating an infinity of drawings, watercolors and preparatory sketches which will become the primary source for the series of engravings on copper plates of views and European panoramas to which he will dedicate himself once he returns home and which will be exhibited in multiple exhibitions between the East and West Coast.
A terrible flu forces him to rest. In search of a healthy climate, he goes to Denver, Colorado where he is captivated by the scenery of the Rocky Mountains. Here was born the series of sixteen engravings - which are combined with sixteen watercolors - "Mountain Moods" dedicated to Estes Park, which has remained famous for the innovative composition of the views. For Burr it was a real business card with which to gain accreditation with prestigious artistic clubs such as the New York Society of Etchers and the Brooklyn Society of Etchers (subsequently renamed the Society of American Etchers). It is during the summers spent observing the Rocky Mountains, the weathered profiles and the wild valleys that Burr's poetics was born, that iconography that would make him famous as one of the most important American engravers between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
In the harsh Colorado winters, the artist's delicate health does not find the right climate for healing and therefore he moves between Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico, in search of milder temperatures. But the call of Colorado began to be felt in the heart of Burr who built a home and studio at 1325 Logan Street in Denver, an address that for fifteen years represented the true home of the Ohio artist. The city is alive and Burr grows personally thanks to contacts with artists and personalities such as Elizabeth Spalding, Charles Partridge Adams, Anne Evans and Henry Read.
In 1924, health conditions once again forced Burr and his wife to make yet another move and brought the couple to Phoenix, Arizona. The Grand Canyon State and its iconic landscapes are known to the engraver who in 1921 had already dedicated a series, which later became famous, renamed by experts "Desert Set". The scenarios of the Sonoran and Mojave deserts broaden the spectrum of George Elbert Burr's works, enriching and completing his style. Among these we remember the delicate "The Lana of mystery the desert", a black and white etching which confirms the engraver's mastery in knowing - as well as fixing panoramas - telling stories of spaces that disappear from sight of the eye, so strongly American, simply by inserting the element of a caravan that slowly crosses the view.
George Elbert Burr will spend the last fifteen years of his life in Phoenix where he is remembered as an active member of the community, holding the position of president of the Phoenix Fine Arts Association and participating with his works in exhibitions and events public. The artist's catalog is characterized by the variety of techniques used which range from watercolour, oil paintings, ink drawings and above all engravings that Burr made personally. Upon his death, his wife Beth refused to sell her husband's entire inventory out of fear - well founded - that the sellers might raise the prices set by her husband. A concern that embodied a way of interpreting art and life that Burr summed up by saying: "The world has been so kind to us, I worked doing what I loved to do, without ever a thought, because it gave us more money than we we needed it." He passed away on November 17, 1939, at the age of eighty, in Phoeinx and rested in the Clinton County Cemetery in Cameron, Missouri. At his side was his beloved Beth, his lifelong companion, who died four years later.
Today George Elbert Burr is unanimously considered one of the finest engravers of the early twentieth century. His prints are present in a large number of authoritative collections including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the British Museum, the French National Print Collection, the Luxembourg Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Fogg Museum, the New York Public Library and the Congressional Library in the capital Washington, D.C The information on his private life is rather incomplete, an objective sought by the artist himself who used to say, to those who asked him if he intended to write a biography: "My private life shouldn't matter to the public, it's just curiosity. My works represent my life and that's the only thing that matters." The most complete and extensive collection of Burr's works can be found at A. Reynolds Morse Collection at the Denver Public Library. The selection includes over three hundred works by the engraver, collected by Morse, a Denver industrialist, best known for his collection of works by Salvador Dalì Collection which converged in the Dali Museum in Florida.

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