George Elbert Burr

Biography of George Elbert Burr

The artist who built our clubhouse is best known for his exquisite copperplate etchings of the vast desert and mountain regions of Arizona and Colorado. Burr is considered one of the finest of the early 20th century American printmakers. His prints are in a number of prominent collections including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the British Museum, American Art Museum, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and the Congressional Library in Washington, D.C. Throughout his lifetime Burr worked in a variety of mediums: oil paintings, watercolors, pen-and-ink drawings and etchings – all pulled from his own presses.

Burr was born in Monroe Fall, Ohio on April 14, 1859. When he was ten years old, his parents relocated to Cameron, Missouri, where his father opened a hardware store. Burr was interested in art from an early age and created his first etchings using zinc scraps found in the spark pan under the kitchen stove. He then printed the plates on a press located in the tin shop of his father’s store.

In December of 1878, Burr left for Illinois to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, but by April Burr moved back to Cameron, where he worked at his father’s store and married a local woman named Elizabeth Rogers. Those few months of study in Chicago were his only artistic training. He became an instructor of drawing and, eventually, an illustrator for such publications as Scribner’s, Harper’s, The Observer, Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, and The Cosmopolitan.

In 1892, Burr undertook a four-year project to illustrate a catalog of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heber R. Bishop Collection of jade. The work was arduous, amounting to a thousand etchings of the collection, but earned Burr enough money to travel to Europe for more than four years with his wife. They returned to the United States at the beginning of the new century.

In 1906, an attack of the flu prompted the couple to move to Denver for the benefit of Burr’s health. His years in Colorado were highly productive. He gained membership to art organizations, including the New York Society of Etchers and the Brooklyn Society of Etchers (later renamed Society of American Etchers).

Due to Burr’s continuing health problems, the couple was forced to relocate once again. They sold the house on Logan Street to the Denver Woman’s Press Club in 1924. Burr presented the club with 15 of his etchings and watercolors including the large watercolor of Mt. Evans. About this work, his wife later wrote, “We somehow could not leave without giving you the watercolor of Mt. Evans. It was from a sketch made the first summer spent in Bear Creek Canyon… We left with you things we loved.”

The couple settled in Phoenix, Arizona where Burr served as president of the Phoenix Fine Arts Association and participated in the city’s first major art exhibition. Burr remained in Phoenix until his death on November 17, 1939.

Read more about Burr on Wikipedia