William Partridge Burpee (1846-1940)

William Partridge Burpee (1846-1940)

Born in Rockland, Maine, in 1846, William Partridge Burpee moved to Boston to pursue a career in accounting, but soon cultivated an interest in the fine arts that had been with him since childhood and was taking lessons with William Bradford by the 1870s. In 1885, Burpee began painting coastal scenes of Lynn Beach along Massachusetts’ North Shore and is today known as one of the Lynn Beach Painters. His work from this period featured scenes of fishermen, children, clam diggers and women hoping for their husbands’ safe return, captured along the beaches and docks from Nahant to Swampscott, as well as similar subject matter drawn from the coves and harbors of Cape Ann. Following the death of his father in 1887, Burpee became an heir to the family fortune which, combined with his painting sales and savings accrued to this point, allowed him the freedom to paint and travel without the financial pressures often experienced by artists. 

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In 1893, Burpee established a studio at the Harcourt Building in Boston, dividing his time between the city and the environs of the North Shore that continued to occupy his interest. At the age of fifty-one, he made a two year bicycle tour through Europe, visiting Holland, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, before returning in 1899. His time abroad generated a change in his painting style and he adopted more impressionist techniques as well as a newfound interest in pastel. Tragedy struck, however, in 1904 when a fire destroyed the Harcourt Building along with most of Burpee’s work.  By 1922, he was living in Rockland, Maine where he remained until his death.

Burpee was a member of the Boston Art Club and exhibited there from 1890 until 1909.  He also showed at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Copley Society and the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, where he was awarded a bronze medal. 

Reference: Falk, Who Was Who In American Art (1999); Howlett, D. Roger, The Lynn Beach Painters: Art Along the North Shore 1880-1920 (Lynn, MA: Lynn Historical Society, 1998); Howland, D. Roger, William Partridge Burpee: American Marine Impressionist (Boston: Copley Square Press, 1991).

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