Finely painted oil on canvas still life of beautiful red apples spilling from a basket, 10" by 12", 15 3/4" by 17 3/4" framed, signed lower right by the noted American painter, ELBRIDGE AYER BURBANK (1858-1949). The work is in the tradition of many others who painted fruit, from the Fall River School of Massachusetts, through such artists as William McCloskey, Edward Chalmers Leavitt, and Levi Wells Prentice. Burbank, encouraged and supported by his uncle, a philanthropic antiquarian and collector of historical objects/ethnology of Native peoples, is best known today for having painted more than 1200 portraits of Native American Indians of more than 25 tribes, many of these works presently in museums such as the Smithsonian and other prestigious institutions. The artist was born in Illinois, and traveled restlessly throughout his life. He studied art in Chicago, then in his thirties traveled to Munich, Germany for further instruction. Upon returning to the United States he was in the Midwest, and then spent increasing amounts of time in the Southwest, appreciative of the landscape and human company he found there. He gained the respect, confidence and friendship of countless Native American chiefs, including Geronimo, Red Cloud, and Chief Joseph, painting their likenesses before they physically passed into history. It is said that Geronimo found Burbank to be his favorite white man, and it is further said that Burbank was the only artist to have painted Geronimo from life. Burbank spent considerable time at the Hubbell Trading Post. Through his time in the Southwest he came to be a friend of artists Joseph Henry Sharp and William Robinson Leigh. By 1910 we find him in Los Angeles, and by 1916 in San Francisco. The very next year, he was admitted to Napa State Hospital for the mental illness that became more apparent as the years went by, (likely what would now be called bi-polar disorder). He was hospitalized until 1934, although he was apparently able to continue working during this period, and in 1944 his autobiography, Burbank Among the Indians, was published. In 1949, the artist was hit by a cable car in San Francisco, this accident leading to his death shortly thereafter. In trying to date this painting, I take note of an original old blue twenties/thirties looking Napa, California framer's sticker, still loosely attached to the frame. This evidence would help to support a date of execution from perhaps 1916 to the 1930's. Other than one small recent professional repair, this lovely painting is in excellent condition. In 2003 Bonhams auction house sold a slightly larger apples still life for $6,500 plus buyer's premium. Most auction appearances of Burbank's works are for his Indian portraits, some of them reaching $20,000. This painting was purchased at an estate sale held at the Pasadena, California home of the noted Broadway, television and movie actor, Robert Picardo. Picardo is especially known for his role in the Star Trek series.
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