George Elbert Burr (1859–1939) was an American printmaker and painter best known for his etchings and drypoints of the desert and mountain regions of the American West.
Burr was born in 1859 in Monroe Falls, Ohio. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago for one winter, his only formal artistic training. Nevertheless, he enjoyed early success as a commercial artist, providing illustrations for Harper's, Scribner's Magazine, Frank Leslie's Weekly, and The Cosmopolitan. In 1892, he began a four-year project illustrating a catalog of Heber R. Bishop's collection of jade antiquities for the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. This project, which involved producing etchings of over a thousand artifacts, paid well enough for Burr to embark on an extended tour of Europe with his wife upon its completion. Over the next five years, as they traveled in Italy, Germany, and the British Isles, Burr amassed sketches and watercolors that would provide the source material for his copperplate etchings of European scenes.
A few years after his return to the United States, an attack of the flu prompted Burr to move to Denver for the benefit of his health. It was there, during summers spent in a cabin studio in a steep wooded canyon with panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains, that Burr began to concentrate on the work that made him famous. In 1924 the artist settled in Phoenix, Arizona, where he would remain for the rest of his life. This change of scenery gave him the opportunity to round out his oevure of Western landscapes with expansive views of the Sonoran and Mojave deserts.
Today George Elbert Burr is widely considered to be one of the finest of the early 20th century American etchers. His prints are in a number of prominent collections including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the British Museum, the French National Print Collection, Luxembourg Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, the New York Public Library and the Congressional Library in Washington, D.C.
Seeber, Louise Combes (1971). George Elbert Burr, 1859-1939; catalogue raisonné and guide to the etched works with biographical and critical notes. Flagstaff, Ariz: Northland Press. ISBN 0-87358-067-2.