George Brainerd Burr (1876 – 1939)
George Brainerd Burr was born in Middletown, Connecticut, in 1876, the son of a prominent and successful banker. After his education there, he traveled to Berlin to study architecture and later figure and landscape painting at the Berlin Academy. Later, he traveled to Munich where he enrolled in the Munich Academy of Fine Art. After several years in Germany and the Low Countries, Burr and his wife, Lucretia Phinney lived near Volendam, Holland, spending their winters on the Island of Capri, off the southern coast of Italy. Burr eventually moved to Paris to study at the Colarossi Academy. In Paris, Burr met and viewed the work of Claude Monet who exerted a profound influence on the younger American painter. Burr eventually returned to the United States after this fourteen year education where he studied painting and etching at the Art Students League in New York City.
Burr was an active member of the Allied Artists of American established in 1914 in New York City as an exhibition cooperative, electing its own judges and juries. He was also a member of the Salmagundi Club in New York established in 1871 as an exhibition venue with its own contemporary collection. After a move to Old Lyme, Connecticut, the Burrs purchased, “Cricket Lawn,” a large cottage in the center of the village, near the Florence Griswold House and its group of influential and collegial American painters. Burr joined the Lyme Art Association where he won the Goodman Prize in 1933.
Burr became a very successful society painter after 1909 enjoying exhibitions at the Lyme Art Association in 1910, the Society of Independent Artists located in New York City, and the Adler Gallery who produced a retrospective in 1978. George B. Burr died in Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1939. His work is included in the collections of museums with American Impressionist collections including the Hickory Museum, North Carolina, the Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, Connecticut, and the Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach, Florida.
Burr spent a number of his winters in Florida primarily because one of his two daughters, Annette Burr Stowman, and his son, George W. Burr, had settled in Edgewater, Florida, south of New Smyrna Beach. A number of exuberant watercolors from his Florida travels exist with place-names including Winter Park, the home of Rollins College, the greater Daytona Beach area where a friend and colleague, Don Emery, Sr. had established an Art League, and the Gainesville area, home of the University of Florida, and location of many paintings by one of Burr’s friends, Herman Herzog (1832 – 1932) whose son lived in the Gainesville area and taught at the University.
Burr was a colorist who believed in the precepts of a daring American Impressionism. Many of his watercolors and oil paintings are brilliantly polychromed with faceted areas of pure color over a bare surface creating a highly saturated and avant-garde example of this variation on the aesthetic of American Impressionism.
His watercolor Lake Sante Fe, Gainesville, Florida, now in the Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art at the Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach, Florida, places the viewer in a grove of tall oak trees with Spanish moss and looking toward the small north central Florida lake. Burr’s foreground is a riot of unnatural color with red, blue, green, yellow, orange, and brown areas of pure color creating a richly carpeted forest floor. Burr’s midground is filled with a slice of blue representing the water of this small lake. Burr’s background is suggested through aerial perspective where his brushstroke suggests a distant forest beyond the far shore of the lake. Overhead a deep blue Florida sky, where areas of exposed paper suggest clouds, completes this colorful reinterpretation of a Florida lake scene by one of America’s important Old Lyme impressionists.
Burr’s oil on canvas, Leaping Rock, one of the artist’s most ambitious contributions to an exhibition at the A. M. Adler Fine Arts in 1978, is a large 32”x37 ½” oil on canvas executed in a bright and post-impressionist style of small interconnected dabs of bright paint that help to create a shimmering and light-filled environment capturing a rocky out-cropping high above the Connecticut River near Hamburg Cove. Here Burr pushes the American Barbizon approach startlingly close to a bright German Expressionism and French Fauvist aesthetic, two styles that Burr had studied while living in Germany after the turn of the century.
George B. Burr is included in The Artists Bluebook, American Art Colonies 1850 – 1930, Art Across America, American Impressionism, Down Garden Paths, The Dictionary of American Artists, Connecticut and American Impressionism, The Art Colony of Old Lyme, Who Was Who in American Art and Reflections II Watercolors of Florida: 1835-2000, the bronze medal winner in the Florida Book Awards in 2012.
Source: Askart.com – Written and submitted by Gary R. Libby, Director Emeritus, The Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach, Florida.