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Emerson Burkhart (1905-1969)
Historic American Painting
Emerson Burkhart was born on a farm near Kalida, Ohio, in 1905. He attended college at Ohio Wesleyan University, graduation in 1926. After college he went to New York to study painting at the Art Students League. A year later, he moved to Provincetown to study further with the well-known New England painter, Charles Hawthorne. Returning to the Midwest in 1931, he took a position teaching at the Columbus Art School in Columbus, Ohio. Early in his professional life, Burkhart painted in a range of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist styles. He was, however, a realist at heart and came into his maturity painting the American scene in the 1940s and early 1950s. His best-known regionalist works document life in the African-American neighborhoods of Columbus. The heavily worked and highly textured surfaces of Burkhart's metaphorical depictions of automobile junkyards convey a feeling of paint not unlike that found in the work of the artist's Chicago contemporary, Ivan Albright. Burkhart exhibited at such institutions as the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Butler Institute of American Art. He received two WPA mural commissions and is noted for the many self-portraits he produced during his lifetime. After the death of his wife in 1955, Burkhart changed the focus of his work. He began to travel the world, serving as Artist in Residence for the American International School and painting scenes that interested him at every port of call. Emerson Burkhart died in 1969 in Columbus. His work is represented in the collections of the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; Ohio Historical Society; and The Schumacher Gallery, Capital University, Ohio.