British artist Robert Burrows contributed to the artistic life of his hometown of Ipswich during the 19th century. With his richly coloured, lovingly detailed works depicting the surrounding area, not only did he celebrate the natural beauty of the Ipswich countryside, but also played a key role in the promotion of arts in the area.
Burrows was the son of a silversmith, and for most of his life he continued his father’s trade whilst painting in his spare time. It seems painting was something he was very passionate about, for he became a member of the Ipswich Society of Professional & Amateur Artists in 1832. He is later cited as being a secretary for this Society, demonstrating a long, close connection with the group.
Other local artists who were part of this Society include Samuel Read (1815-1883) and Robert Burcham Clamp (1794-1875), both of whom were tutored by Henry Davy (1793-1865). It is perhaps possible that Burrows might also have received tutoring from Davy.
Whatever the case, what is clear is that he had a keen sense for the beautiful. His pastoral pieces set nature in a sentimental mood. Rolling hills give way to bursts of bright verdancy in bustling, healthily statured trees. Burrows details rough bark with a shadowy mix of ochres, the ethereal transcendency of the clouds in billowing brushstrokes of greys and whites. His works were praised for their ‘effective’ and ‘natural’ state, married with a sense of harmony in composition and colouring. Indeed, there is something similar to Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) in Burrows’ work. One wonders if he took inspiration from the famous Suffolk artist in the execution of his scenes of the same area.
Landscape painting was becoming increasingly popular in Britain during the 19th century. It is therefore not surprising that Burrows would be part of a local art society, keen to produce his own works. More and more institutions and societies were cropping up around the country, keen to encourage artistic endeavour in local people who might otherwise not have had the chance. Perhaps Burrows was one of these people. From about 1869 he was pursuing art full-time and had already exhibited successfully at both the Royal Academy and the British Institution in London.
Ipswich, however, was where Burrows based his professional career. He was heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the town, sitting on the town council on a number of occasions. He enjoyed friendships with other local artists, including Edward Robert Smythe (1810-1899). One gets the image of a passionate painter keen to celebrate his local surroundings as well as experiment and expand his own style.
A number of his works are now displayed in Suffolk in Sudbury Town Hall and Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich.
Born in Ipswich, Britain.
Became a member of the Ipswich Society of Professional & Amateur Artists.
Married Harriet Batterbee Bowman.
Elected to Ipswich Town Council.
Exhibited at the Suffolk Fine Arts Association. Elected to Ipswich Town Council.
Exhibited at the Royal Academy and the British Institution.
Elected to Ipswich Town Council.
Exhibited at the Ipswich Art Club.
Exhibited at the Bury St Edmunds Fine Art Society.
Died in Ipswich, Britain.