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biography of Milton J. BURNS (1853-1933)

Birth place: Mt. Gilead, OH

Death place: Yonkers, NY (aboard his studio-boat Sarah")."

Addresses: Millington, NJ until 1915.

Profession: Marine painter, illustrator, etcher

Studied: W. Bradford, Arctic Expedition, 1869; NAD, with J.G. Brown; Paris, c.1870s; ASL.

Exhibited: SC, 1876-86; NAD, 1875-98; Brooklyn AA, 1876-79; PAFA, 1880-81; London Fisheries Exh., England, 1883 (gold med.); Boston AC, 1886; Mystic Seaport Mus., 1984 (retrospective); S.Indp.A.

Member: SC, 1871 (founding mem.).

Work: Mystic Seaport Mus.; Mariners Mus.

Comments: From the 1870s-90s, he was one of America"s best known marine artists and a prolific illustrator. Burns was one of the few marine artists who was truly a life-long sailor. His first venture at sea was with William Bradford on the master"s famous 1869 Arctic Expedition. Therafter, Burns dedicated himself to marine art and spent most of his life as an adventurer. In 1871, he and a group of fellow "bohemians" founded the Salmagundi Club. He sailed constantly, first along the Maine coast where he was one of the earliest painters at Monhegan Island and Grand Manan (1880); then frequently to the Grand Banks and North Sea, doing illustrations for Harper's, London Graphic, Century, Literary Digest and others. He also lived among the fisherfolk of England, France, Norway, the Canadian Maritimes, Gloucester, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and the West Indies. In 1881, S.G.W. Benjamin wrote in Century about a daring two-week winter voyage sailing on the high seas with Burns in a pilot boat. During the 1880s he was one of the renowned illustrators of the America"s Cup series. Burns was a friend of Winslow Homer, and it is likely that Burns inspired the master"s famous painting, "Lost in the Fog on the Grand Banks" (1885-86). In 1879, Burns helped rescue two fisherman lost in the fog off the Grand Banks and his illustration of the incident was reproduced as a wood engraving in Harper"s Weekly (Nov. 22, 1879). He also exhibited a painting of the same title at the NAD in 1881 รณ years before Homer"s masterpiece. Burns was also the good friend of Frederic Remington, E.A. Abbey, Gilbert Gaul and many other famous illustrator-artists. Around 1896-98, he was in partnership with Fred Pansing in the lithography business. Ever the adventurer, he saved Wilfred Grenfell in the arctic (the medical missionary known for the rugs produced by his mission). When they became lost in a blizzard and were starving and freezing, Burns shot a polar bear to ensure their survival. From 1915-on, he lived aboard his sloops, the "Zanana" (in Edgewater, NJ) and the "Sarah" (in Yonkers, NY) moored on the Hudson River. He also spent many of his summers on Monhegan Island. Signature note: Beginning in the 1870s, his trademark signature featured the tail of the "s" in a flourish, underlining the name. Some drawings are signed with the "B" only. Some references have mis-listed him as Michael Burns.

Sources: WW05; Peter Falk, exh. cat., (Mystic Seaport Mus.,1984)

Legals

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