Ralph W. Burton, 1905-1983

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Log Fence & Reflections | Ralph W. Burton

Log Fence & Reflections | Ralph W. Burton

Log Fence and Reflections, 1971
Oil on Wood Board
Size: 10.5 x 13.5 inches

Details: Oil painting on board. Signed Lower Right. Writing on verso: "Autumn - 1971. Log Fence and Reflections, Lanark County, Ont. Ralph W. Burton, Ottawa. Gallery label on verso: C. Gutenberg Gallery, Ltd., Toronto.
Painting is framed.
Provenance: Private Collection, C. Gutenberg Gallery

Additional Information and Photos Available Upon Request

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Ralph Wallace Burton was heavily influenced by his friendship
with A.Y. Jackson, but his paintings still show great originality

Ralph Wallace Burton was born in Newington, Ontario, near Cornwall, and began studying art as a young man.

Ralph Wallace Burton first studied in Ottawa under a Paris-trained artist, learning how to paint still lifes, followed up by further drawing classes and self-directed studies in the 1920s.

He turned to professional painting about 1930 and continued to paint throughout his service in the Royal Canadian Air Force (1940-47). These early paintings are not well known today.

It was while he was in Western Canada with the RCAF that he attended the Banff School of Fine Arts under A.Y. Jackson, an original member of the Group of Seven.

This led to a life-long friendship between A.Y. Jackson and R.W. Burton (as he signed many of his paintings).

A.Y. Jackson’s Influence

A.Y. Jackson’s influence is clear to see in R.W. Burton’s paintings in the post-war period, especially the many oil paintings on panel and on canvas produced in the 1960s. It’s safe to say that the connection breathed new life into R.W. Burton’s art, raising his paintings to a higher level.

Like A.Y. Jackson’s works, Ralph Wallace Burton paintings display a flowing brush hand, sweeping across landscapes full of undulating fields, trees, rivers and clouds. Straight and flat lines disappear. Some unexpected colours creep into scenes, such as soft pinks and oranges in a painting of spring thaw.

Ralph Wallace Burton went on sketching trips with A.Y. Jackson and Ottawa artist Maurice Haycock in the Ottawa Valley and Gatineau area, often painting plein air style.

A.Y. Jackson was R.W. Burton’s main influence, but Burton developed a distinct soft velvety tone in his work that was quite beautiful.

Painted in Eastern Ontario

As well as the Gatineau area, Ralph Wallace Burton painted throughout Eastern Ontario, Alaska, Cape Breton, N.S., New Brunswick, and Portland, Maine. He sketched on site with oils on board and later committed some of these sketches to canvas in a larger ver­sion.

R.W. Burton remained friends with A.Y. Jackson until Jackson’s death in 1974. When A.Y. Jackson suffered a stroke in 1965, he recuperated at Wallace’s Ottawa home. A graphite sketch A.Y. Jackson did of his friend is in the collection of the Ottawa Art Gallery.

Ralph Wallace Burton also did a series of paintings in Ottawa of the old LeBreton Flats area of the city just before their demolition in 1964 by the federal government. Thirty-one of these paintings were donated to the City of Ottawa Archives by the artist, and some of these hang in Ottawa City Hall.

Ralph Wallace Burton, who also supported himself and his family by teaching art in Ottawa, held a number of solo shows over the years, including Ottawa’s Wallack’s Gallery and other galleries in Toronto and Ottawa.

He died in Ottawa at the age of 77.


A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 (online only), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker. National Gallery of Canada, Artists in Canada database.

Wikipedia Entry