Dennis Burton (1933-2013)
"Untitled- Garter Belt Series"
Conte on Paper
25" x 19" Image
36" x 31" Frame
Provenance: Purchased from Isaacs Gallery in 1981; Private Collection Burlington
Born in Lethbridge, Alberta, he won an academic scholarship to Pickering College where he completed his Senior Matriculation. He entered the Ontario College of Art in 1952 and studied drawing and graphics under Frederick Hagan and where he also probed the realm of abstraction with Jock Macdonald. He took honours each year including the J. F. M. Stewart Scholarship, R. S. McLaughlin Scholarship, and an anonymously donated travelling scholarship to study at the University of South California under De Erdeley and Lebrun. He also won a Royal Canadian Academy Scholarship. He held is his first one person show at the House of Hambourg, Toronto, where he worked and presented his paintings and those of other student artists. He then studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, U.S.A. and continued to win prizes for his paintings.
He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a graphic designer until 1960 when he started painting full time. His work was called “Lyric Abstraction,” “Abstract Expressionism” and “Romantic Expressionism” by Los Angeles art critic Henry J. Shields. He often listened to progressive jazz while painting and played the saxophone in sessions of improvised original music with other young artists in Toronto. One of his first commissions was a mural for the Edmonton Airport measuring 5 x 21’ entitled “Flight without vehicle” situated in the quiet lounge at the rear of the departure lobby. It was criticized for its abstract presentation, as was the mural by Jack Shadbolt in the centre of the same building.
Burton’s paintings of the female torso in underwear have been the subject of critics and public alike. Frank Tumpane noted that such paintings among other things, were an attempt by Burton to break with abstract expressionism and return to purity of draughtsmanship. Barrie Hale quoted Burton as saying, “The 20th Century woman is a packaged commodity. She is presented in advertisements, the entertainment field, and men’s magazines as an inanimate object divested of her humanity, leaving her only as a sex symbol. I quarrel with the resulting loss of her humanity. In my work, I express my love for the container and especially for its contents.” But Arnold Rockman not agreeing with this statement felt Burton’s paintings showed that he was totally uninterested in the woman’s humanity and went on to make the following comparison, “But, like Genet’s achievement in drama, Burton makes of perversity a fine art.” Burton had definitely reflected the exploitation by contemporary “men’s books,” and other public media, of the woman as a sex symbol. His work in sculpture has gained considerable recognition. In this medium he worked with a variety of materials taken from scrap metal and found objects which he welds together to achieve a desired effect usually with satiric Neo-Dadaist qualities.
His one person shows included The Gallery of Contemporary Art (1957) and Isaacs Gallery (1961, 1962, 1965). His work is in several public collections including Los Angeles County Museum, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Royal Ontario Museum (T. Heinrich Coll.) He lived in Toronto, Ontario.
Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977