There are many jewels among The Butler’s Permanent Collection, and the Burbank Collection can be listed among them. E.A. Burbank’s 1200 portraits of Native Americans from 125 tribes are characterized by a striking straightforwardness which depicts Hopi life in a vibrant, sensitive way. Born in northern Illinois, Burbank lived on the edge of “Indian” country. This proximity to the Native Americans prompted Burbank to begin his oil portraiture career by painting African American youths.
Burbank had finished his studies at the Academy of Design (now the Art Institute of Chicago), when his uncle at The Field Museum commissioned him to paint some Native American portraits. This sparked a life-long devotion to understand, paint, and often befriend his Native American subjects.
Burbank moved Northwest and to Oklahoma, painting members of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Nez Perce tribes. He made such an impression on the people during his time there that the town of Burbank, Oklahoma was named after him. Burbank was in Arizona and New Mexico when he painted the Hopis, Zunis, and Queres.
E.A. Burbank is the only known artist who was ever allowed to do a live portrait of Apache leader and medicine man, Geronimo. The trust between the two became so great, in fact, that Geronimo even allowed Burbank to paint his six-year old daughter, E-wa, which is also part of The Butler’s impressive collection.
The artist had a special affinity for the Hopi people, whom he called the most interesting and peace-loving of the Native Americans he’d met. Burbank said of the Hopi villages he visited that they were “women’s worlds…the women owned the property… the family line was traced through the women. They had final say in most village affairs.”
Other artists included in the Butler’s Western Collection Gallery are Joseph Sharp, Frederick Remington, Victor Higgans, Thomas Hill, Thomas Moran, Russell Couse, and Charles Craig.
Our collection also features Burbank’s paintings of Chief Naiche and Chief Medicine Crow, who were both fine artists in their own right.