Theme/Style – Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, landscape
Media – Oils, watercolor, ink, woodcuts, leatherwork, metalwork, furniture, decorative arts
Artistic Focus – Though Elizabeth Eaton Burton proved herself to be an accomplished artist, designer and craftsperson, and continued to create work throughout her life, she primarily devoted herself to travel and sharing her knowledge and love of French art and culture with her community in the Santa Barbara-Los Angeles area. Nevertheless, the pioneering work in arts and crafts that propelled Burton to national prominence in the early 1900s has remained her enduring legacy; and her striking designs, especially her table lamps, are ranked with those of Van Erp and Stickley, and are still sought after among collectors.
Career Highlights –
- Elizabeth Eaton was born in Paris in 1869, the child of two expatriate Americans who were studying at the Sorbonne. Her family moved to Santa Barbara, California in 1886, where she studied photography and painting. In 1893, she married William Waples Burton, and was thereafter known as Elizabeth Eaton Burton.
- Drawn to the arts and crafts world by her father, artist and landscape architect Charles Frederick Eaton, Burton opened a burnt leather studio at the end of 1896, and soon her leatherwork techniques and use of native woods and shells in lamps, screens, and chests garnered acclaim. She exhibited her “artistic leathers, hand wrought metals and electric lamps” in New York in 1908.
- Elizabeth exhibited her work in various galleries in New York and other major cities in the United States, including the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, and at the 1908 Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition in Seattle, Washington, where she earned a gold medal.
- In 1910 Burton moved to Los Angeles, where she opened a studio in the Blanchard Building and offered her services as both an artist and an interior decorator, and also lectured on art appreciation in the city’s clubs, including the Seven Arts Workshop. That same year she published a catalog of her electric lamps and exhibited in many eastern states.
- After the death of her husband in 1920, Burton eventually returned to her childhood haunts in France, and also to painting. On visits back to California, she exhibited her paintings and sketches and lectured on Paris, publishing her book “Paris Vignettes” in 1928, which included her pen-and-ink illustrations. She also served as the president of the Alliance Française of Hollywood in 1929, and in 1930 Burton was awarded the Palme Académique from the French government for promoting French culture and art.
- In 1932 Burton exhibited her leatherwork in the form of screens, cushions and decorated panels in her Paris studio; and in 1933-1934 Burton toured the Orient, including Japan, where she painted and studied woodblock printing. An exhibition of her Japanese watercolors and prints toured internationally, arriving back in Los Angeles with a show at the Wilshire House in 1936.
- Elizabeth Eaton Burton passed away in Los Angeles in 1937, but her work continues to be appreciated. A lamp created by Burton in 1905, of hammered copper and abalone shells, was included in an exhibition entitled “The Arts and Crafts Movement in California: Living the Good Life.” Organized by the Oakland Museum of California, the show traveled to the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC in 1993. The lamp was also exhibited in the show “The Ideal Home: 1900-1920” at the American Craft Museum in New York that same year; and a Christie’s auction in 2000 included a Burton table lamp that had graced the girlhood home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in Newport, Rhode Island.
- Near the end of her life, Burton dictated her memoirs to her daughter, Helen, and in 2011 “My Santa Barbara Scrapbook: A Portrait of the Artist Elizabeth Eaton Burton” was published by the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. In addition to Burton’s discussions of her life and art, the memoir recounts many happy hours spent with artist friends Frederic Remington, Jules Tavernier, Charles Rollo Peters, and Julian Rix, among others
Bibliographic references are available upon request.