Arizona/California, Portrait-Indian-Ethnic and Still-Life Painting
Elbridge Burbank was a tireless and prolific painter of the North American Indian. He was a portrait painter of Indian chiefs, leaving a rich historical legacy. It is estimated that he worked among as many as 125 tribes.
In 1887 and 1889 to 1891, Burbank studied art in Munich, Germany. While there he became friends with artists, Joseph Henry Sharp, William R. Leigh and Toby Rosenthal. Following this, he briefly had a portrait studio in London, England, and then he returned to Chicago where in 1892, he had his first exhibition at his studio.
He graduated from the Chicago Art Academy in 1894 and then, working from a studio in St. Paul, Minnesota, painted scenery for Northwest Magazine to inspire homesteading along the railway line of the Northern Pacific. This job took him West to the Rocky Mountains, Idaho, Washington and Montana.
In 1898, he experienced a turning point in his life as a result of a special commission from his uncle, Edward Ayer, who was first president of the Field Colombian Museum and owner of one of the most complete libraries on Indian culture. Ayer hired his nephew to do portraits of Indians prominent in that time.
On this assignment, Burbank traveled west again, and in Ganado, Arizona, met trading post owner Lorenzo Hubbell who became a life-long friend. During his western trips, he painted over 2000 portraits of Indiams from 125 tribes: 1000 were oil portraits and 1200 were with Conte Crayon. He was one of the few artists to use crayon as a medium for portraits.
He was the only artist to paint Geronimo from life, he also painted Red Cloud and Chief Joseph. The collection of paintings from those western travels is in the Newberry Library in Chicago, and other large group of his paintings is at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.