Edward Burra – a truly original and brilliant artist.

Have you ever had one of those truly incredible strokes of complete coincidence? I did with Burra. I’d never heard of the guy. Then, back in the seventies, I was browsing in a book shop and pulled out this art book from among this big stack. I started glancing through and was immediately taken with these fabulous stylised paintings of Harlem in the thirties. The paintings were incredible – the colours, the images – very original. It was almost Picasso-like, almost surreal. I hadn’t seen anything quite like it. So I bought the book.

That night I put the telly on and lo and behold (there were only 3 channels back then – I don’t think Channel 4 had been invented) on BBC 2 was a documentary about Edward Burra which I watched with great enthusiasm. It was brilliant. At the end of the programme it mentioned that he had an exhibition at the Tate which I went to the very next day.

How amazing was that?

If I hadn’t have pulled that book out from that heap I’d have never known about him. In the space of two days I had discovered him, bought a book, watched a documentary and visited an exhibition. I’ve never seen anything more about him again. But I reckon he was a really important artist in the development of modern art.

Check him out:


13 thoughts on “Edward Burra – a truly original and brilliant artist.

    1. That is probably why they put on the retrospective exhibition and the BBC prog was related to that. I think the coincidence for me was discovering this old book that had probably been there years and digging out at precisely the right time.

      1. You don’t believe in fate do you Opher? It was fate that day that you should find that book, see the programme and go to the Tate the next day to see his work close up. Our life is planned for us, we cannot prevent what will happen and strange things happen that sometimes cannot be explained. I shall now go and look at some Edward Burra Art. Interesting blog Opher.

      2. Just seen some of his Art not quite to my taste, more Jonathan’s but liked “The Valley and Lake, Northumberland” have you see that one, “The Coffee Bar” was interesting. Thanks I would not have known about him except for your blog.

      3. Yes there are many people who talk of fate. I don’t like to think that way though. For me it would be terrible if our lives were already mapped out. There wouldn’t be much point in living them. I like to think it was coincidence and that we are in control; we can change what we do; we have choice.
        Thanks Anna – I hope you like Edward Burra.

      4. Not familiar with that one. I was really taken with the Harlem paintings of thirties pimps, molls and gangsters. He captured the swagger, outrageousness and incredible colours. So rich.
        You’re welcome. Glad you got something out of it.

  1. I saw the Harlen I thought they were rather good as well, but the one I did like the mist was “The Valley and Lake”. We cannot avoid fate we can try and live our lives they way we want but it fate is there and we cannot avoid it. I guess you and I will always disagree on something Opher, but that is what makes life more interesting isn’t it.

    1. Perhaps we’re fated to disagree on some things??? But the world is all the richer for a range of views. I’ll have a look for the Valley and the Lake. Sounds like one of his watercolours.

      1. In response to above and below. Glad you looked at that painting, I rather liked it. I shall see what else there is of his, pleased you mentioned him. You never know, we are fated to disagree. Does it not make life richer, knowing different people other views, opens our minds. This morning I had never heard of the Painter Burra, now I do. “Sleep Warm” Opher.

      2. I’m glad you liked some of his work too. Sharing is always good. I’m sure we’re not fated to disagree. But disagreement can be healthy sometimes. It makes life richer. What is most important is respect for each other. You sleep warm too Anna.

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