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George Brainerd Burr
Lyme Art Colony
(August 7, 1876–September 4, 1951)
In Lyme: 1910-1939
George Burr (1876-1951) had a gallery of sketches that he collected and carefully hung on the walls of his Old Lyme house. Most of them were given to him by artist friends, often in exchange for one of his own sketches. Requesting a drawing from his friend Edmund Greacen, Burr wrote, "I like a sketch to look like what it is – a sketch, so don’t finish except for a name." George Burr’s paintings reveal a similar strong interest in expressing a rough, unfinished quality. Most adept with smaller canvases, Burr created lively textured landscape and figure paintings by employing a translucent background over which strong dabs of paint were loosely applied, frequently exposing the canvas.
Burr had been introduced to and influenced by the modern movements of German Expressionism and French Fauvism when he lived in Germany and France during the first decade of the twentieth century. Consequently his choice of color was at times more daring than that of most of the Old Lyme group. He readily experimented with intense blues, purples, and reds that convey an expressionistic mood in much of his work.
The son of a prominent Middletown, Connecticut, banker, George Burr had left for Europe as a young man to study architecture in the Royal Architect’s office in Berlin. He met and became engaged to Lucretia Phinney, who was studying German on a college scholarship. After their marriage in America, they returned to Berlin. Burr had decided against being an architect and began art studies first at the Berlin and then the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, continued them at the Colarossi Academy in Paris, and later, at the Arts Student League in New York. While in Europe, he and his wife lived for many summers in Holland, chiefly at Volendam. They often spent winters on the island of Capri in southern Italy.
After living in Europe for fourteen years, George Burr decided in 1910 to bring his family back to his native New England, and he believed Old Lyme would be a good place to settle and establish his art career in America. He and his wife purchased "Cricket Lawn," an 1844 cottage-style house on the main street. For many of the local artists, the Burr home became a center of activity. George Burr had a fine sense of humor, he was a tennis enthusiast, and both he and his wife were active in town affairs,
Burr was invited to contribute to the local art exhibition his first summer in Old Lyme. He became an active member of the art colony and of the Lyme Art Association when it was formed in 1914. He won the Association’s Goodman Prize in 1933. In addition to painting, Burr developed considerable talent as an etcher and had some critical success with his colored etchings and monotypes.
Burr’s professional memberships also included the Allied Artists Association and the Salmagundi Club. Twenty-one examples of his work were displayed in 1978 at A. M. Adler Fine Art, Inc., New York, in the exhibition Three American Impressionists: From Paris to Old Lyme.
Three American Impressionists: From Paris to Old Lyme; Lucien Abrams, George Burr, Charles Ebert. Exh. Cat., A.M. Adler Fine Art, Inc., New York City, 1978.