George Elbert Burr was a prolific artist who was highly respected by an international following.Land in Light: the West by George Elbert Burr is an exhibit of 24 of his etchings in the Katherin L. Chase Gallery at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. The exhibit opens Friday, March 24 through June 22, 2006 and was selected by Alan Petersen, MNA Fine Arts Guest Curator and Fine Arts Department Chair at Coconino Community College. The Burr collection of etchings was gifted to MNA by Carolann Smurthwaite in 1983.
During the late nineteenth century, Burr lived in New Jersey and was employed as an illustrator for Scribner’s Magazine and Harper’s Magazine. His artwork garnered attention along the East Coast and in the Midwest.
In an effort to improve his health, Burr and his wife, Elizabeth, moved to Denver in 1906, where he completed a series of etchings he named Mountain Woods and a critically acclaimed set called The Desert Series, some of which are included in MNA’s exhibit. In 1924, again seeking a more healthful climate, Burr and his wife moved to Phoenix where they lived until his death in 1939.
Burr’s prints of the Southwest are among the finest examples of the art of etching. His compelling views of the American West emphasize the wide open spaces and atmospheric light of the dramatic landscapes that became his focus. Often described as impressionistic, his work is related visually and thematically to the work of American romantic artists such as Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt, who worked in the West during the later nineteenth century.
Burr was able to capture a tangible sense of light and space through his technical mastery of the etching process on copper plates etched with nitric acid. Throughout his career, Burr printed more than 25,000 prints from 367 editions or plates—by himself―an astounding body of work from one artist.
The Museum of Northern Arizona seeks to inspire a sense of love and responsibility for the beauty and diversity of the Colorado Plateau through nine exhibit galleries interpreting Native cultures, tribal lifeways, natural sciences, and fine arts from the region. The Museum sits at the base of the San Francisco Peaks and is surrounded by tremendous geological, biological, and cultural resources in one of Earth’s most spectacular landscapes.