Arthur Gibbes Burton (1883-1969) was an impressionist painter whose nearly forty-year career produced many landscapes of the West River Valley in southern Vermont. Burton drew inspiration from the serene, pastoral countryside where he lived most of his adult life. As an impressionist, Burton used the backdrop of rural towns to depict the changing qualities of light and the passage of time in the natural world. The vistas of Vermont were his favorite to paint, and the major inspiration for his work.
Burton was orphaned at a young age and raised by his close relatives in New York. He studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, one of the best art schools of the time, and after graduating with a degree in general art, he took on jobs such as a commercial illustrator and an art teacher specializing in model-making, mechanical drawing, and painting. During WWI, he joined the war effort by painting camouflage on naval vessels.
In 1915, Burton married Mary Doherty, and twelve years later, they moved from New York to Brattleboro, Vermont, where he began to explore the area of the West River Valley. Specializing in rural landscapes, Burton painted the quintessential elements of Vermont that portrayed the serene beauty of the state, but also the hardships of life in the country. His various landscape paintings range from sugar houses and barns to the country roads and hills of the West River Valley. Of Burton’s appreciation of the Vermont countryside, he said, “We used to go there when I was a small boy, and I’ve always remembered the brooks and barns attached to the houses. I think I’ve always wanted to paint those hills.” And, paint he did. However, he was not a “plein air” artist as some would suggest. Instead, he would pencil sketch at the site, then use the sketch and, sometimes photographs, to complete an oil painting of the landscape back at his studio. His method was minimalist but meticulous, his finished work was almost always preceded by a pencil sketch or drawing.
Burton’s nearly forty-year career produced a multitude of work highlighting the scenery of small Vermont towns such as Newfane, Townshend, and Brookline. Burton was practically an unknown artist when he died in Brattleboro on February 24, 1969. Although, his life’s work was discovered by a friend and neighbor, Leonore McIntosh, who consequently organized an exhibition and sale at the Garden Gallery in Londonderry, Vermont. Popularized by the exhibition and sale, Burton’s remaining work was donated to the Bennington Museum. One of Burton’s longest associations was with the Southern Vermont Arts Center, where he often exhibited between 1927 and 1955. He was honored with a one-man exhibition in 1954.
This Saturday, July 6th, Burton’s work will once again be featured at the Southern Vermont Arts Center. The exhibition, curated by art historian, Warren F. Broderick, will feature twenty seasonal paintings by Burton, along with pencil sketchings and other items that Burton used in his creative process. These additional materials will help guide visitors through the steps he took in order to complete his oil paintings.
The opening exhibition for Gallery One Series: Arthur Gibbes Burton, will be held at the Southern Vermont Arts Center’s Yester House on Saturday, July 6 from 2-4 p.m. The exhibition will be on view until August 4.
Warren. F. Broderick, Arthur Gibbes Burton, Bennington Museum “Three Vermont Impressionists”, 2014
Mary Burton, At The Foot of the Hills, (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1937)