From: The Life of Edward E. Ayer

By: Frank C. Lockwood, University of Arizona

Published by: A. C. McClurg & Company

Chicago, IL

Book donated to Harvard-Diggins Library

From page 158

Describing the Ayer Collection at the Newberry Library:

1,232 red chalk drawings of Western Indians from life by Elbridge Ayer Burbank

And from pages 178-180

and the very large collection of red chalk drawings of well-known Indians of our own day by Elbridge Ayer Burbank.

Mr. Elbridge Ayer Burbank is a noted contemporary painter of Indians. He was born in Harvard, Illinois, in 1858, and is the grandson of Elbridge Gerry Ayer, the founder of that town. Mr. Burbank received his art training in the old Chicago Academy of Design, and in Munich. Portrait painting attracted him from the first. His earliest success in this field was won through a series of carefully executed Negro studies. There was prompt and popular response to his work in this vein, as his subjects, for the most part, were rendered with humorous intent. His American Beauty - a little Negro boy holding in his hand an American Beauty rose of the most perfect variety - was reproduced as a chromo and circulated widely in Sunday newspaper supplements. In the 1893 exhibition of the Society of Chicago Artists Mr. Burbank was awarded the Yerkes Prize. His work was exhibited at the Paris Exposition and at the St. Louis Worlds Fair. It was not until 1897, however, that Mr. Burbank found his distinctive field as an artist. At about that time he was encouraged by his uncle, Mr. Edward E. Ayer, to take up the painting of Indian portraits and was commissioned by Mr. Ayer to paint the Apache chief, Geronimo, then living at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He later made extended trips into the territory of the Sioux, Crows, Nez Perces, Cheyennes, Utes, Navajos, Moquis, Zunis, Apaches, and many other tribes, with the purpose of securing a series of exact delineations from life of the most famous Indian chiefs then living in America. Proof that he carried out his ambitious project with a large measure of success may be found in the Ayer Collection.

His first portraits of Indian chiefs were done in oil, but his later work is mostly in red chalk. However, he did not limit himself to warriors; he drew the portraits of typical squaws, also. Both by his extended practice in portrait painting and his sympathy with Indian character he was well fitted for the task. His long training in painting heads, says his friend Charles Francis Browne, had given a facility and an unfailing ability to catch a likeness at once. This is necessary in making Indian portraits from the difficulty of getting them to sit; and it is important to finish as quickly, as there is no surety that they will hold out as long as the painter wishes. In Mr. Burbanks Indian pictures there is a clear delineation of individual character; and he reproduces with scrupulous accuracy every detail of tribal and ceremonial dress. The Ayer Collection includes a very large number of his best portraits -for the most part red chalk drawings, though some are in oil.