The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Frederick William Burton, 1816-1900

Nationality: Irish
Date of Birth: 1816.04.08
Place of Birth: Corofin, County Clare
Date of Death: 1900.03.16
Place of Death: London


Sir Frederick William Burton was a landscape painter and museum director.


Burton received his artistic education under the Brocas brothers in Dublin and trained as a watercolourist. However, he established his reputation as a portrait painter, painting many distinguished figures in Dublin, e.g. Helen Faucit as Antigone (1849; National Gallery, Dublin). He was friends with George Petrie and it was through his influence that Burton began to paint scenes from Irish history and contemporary life, e.g. Aran Fisherman's Drowned Child (1841; National Gallery, Dublin). Burton was elected to the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1839.

In 1851 he moved to Munich, although returning to London a few years later where he painted a portrait of George Eliot (1867; National Portrait Gallery, London).

From 1874 to 1894 he was Director of the National Gallery in London. His acquisitions included prestigious works such as Leonardo's Virgin of the Rocks, Piero della Francesca's Nativity, Raphael's Ansidei Madonna, Vermeer's Young Woman Standing at a Virginal and Velásquez's Philip IV in Brown and Silver.


Potterton, H., 'A Director with Discrimination', Country Life, vol. 160, 9 May 1974, pp. 1140-41; Sheehy, Jeanne, 'Sir Frederick William Burton', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 22 February 2002).