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 Dennis Eugene Norman Burton  (1933 - )



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Lived/Active: British Columbia/Ontario/Alberta / Canada      Known for: painting, sculpture, murals, illustrations, printmaking, graphics, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Dennis Eugene Norman Burton (1933)

An important Canadian, painter, sculptor, muralist, illustrator, printmaker, draftsman, graphic artist and educator, Dennis Burton was born in Lethbridge, Alberta. He’s lived and worked in Toronto, Ontario (c.1952 – 1979) and in Vancouver, British Columbia (since 1979). His work is discussed in most Canadian art history books, it’s been included in numerous exhibitions, and it’s collected by many major Canadian art museums.

His mediums include oil, watercolor, acrylic, enamel, gouache*, pastel, casein*, Conte Crayon*, pencil, ink, felt pen, collage*, poster, lithograph*, etching*, monotype*, serigraph*, metal, wood, found objects*, mixed mediums and “happenings”*. His subjects include figures, nudes, sex, eroticism, female undergarments (“Garterbeltmania”), genitalia, social commentary, parody, humor, landscape, allegory and, as an abstractionist – shape, color and texture. His styles include Realism*, Pop Art*, Lyrical Abstraction*, Abstract Expressionism*, Dada*, and Calligraphic* painting. AskART has some good illustrations of his oeuvre. (1)

Burton’s art education includes Pickering College, Newmarket, Ontario (c.1950 – 1952); a degree from the Ontario College of Art, Toronto (1952 – 1956), where he studied under Jock MacDonald and Fred Hagan; the University of Southern California, Los Angeles (1955), under Frances de Erdely; with Rico Lebrun in Los Angeles (1955); and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine (1959), with Ben Shahn. The works of Willem de Kooning and William Ronald are also frequently mentioned influences. (2)

Burton worked as a graphic designer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (1957 – 1960) and TDF Artists Ltd., Toronto (1963 – 1964) before devoting himself fulltime to painting and teaching. His extensive teaching career includes the New School of Art, Toronto (1965 – 1977, Director 1971 – 1977); Artists' Workshop, Toronto (1965 – 1977); York University, Toronto (1966 – 1968); Ontario College of Art*, Toronto (Chairman, Drawing and Painting Department 1970 – 1971); Banff Centre School, Alberta (1974 and 1975); the University of Lethbridge, Alberta (1976 and 1989); Arts’ Sake, Toronto (1977 – 1979); and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver (1979 – 1999).

He’s exhibited with the Canadian Group of Painters* (1956, 1957 and 1958), the Ontario Society of Artists* (1958 and 1963), and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (1959, 1960 and 1964). His works have been included in the Spring Exhibitions of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1958 – 1970); the Walker Art Center Biennial, Minneapolis, Minnesota (1958); in two Canadian Biennials at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1957 and 1965); and in the Winnipeg Biennial, Manitoba (1968).

His work has also been included in numerous important themed group exhibitions such as "Four Canadians", Art Gallery of Toronto [now Art Gallery of Ontario] (1957); “Environments/Permutations”, Riverside Museum, New York City (1968); “Canada 68”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1968); “Approaches to Figure Painting”, Museum London, Ontario (1970); “Toronto Painting 1953 – 1965”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1972); “The Ontario Community Collects: a survey of Canadian Painting from 1766 to the present”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1975); “The Figure: A Sensual Response”, Art Gallery of Brant, Ontario (1975); “Modern Painting in Canada: Major Movements in Twentieth Century Canadian Art”, Edmonton Art Gallery [now Art Gallery of Alberta] (1978); “Pasted Paper: A Look at Canadian Collage, 1955 – 1965”, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario (1979); “ABC's of Pop Art: America, Britain and Canada, Major Artists and Their Legacy”, Florida State University, Museum of Fine Arts, Tallahassee, Florida, and Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, Florida (2000 – 2001); “Defining the Portrait”, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal (2001); "The Sixties in Canada", National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2005); and “Pop Pop Pop: Pop”, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan (2006). (3)

His solo and retrospective shows include “Dennis Burton: Paintings and Drawings 1959 – 1965”, New Brunswick Museum, Saint John and Edmonton Art Gallery (1966); “Dennis Burton Retrospective”,  Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario and touring  (1977 – 1978); and “Dennis Burton: Landscape Drawings”, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge (1982).

His works have also been included in solo and group exhibitions at prominent commercial galleries such as Park Gallery, Toronto; Isaacs Gallery, Toronto; Moore Gallery, Toronto; and Michel Thomas Gallery, Beverly Hills, California.

Burton’s works are in numerous private, corporate and museum collections. According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, his works are in the permanent collections of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Art Gallery of Windsor (Ontario), Carleton University Art Gallery (Ottawa, Ontario), Joliette Art Museum (Quebec), Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University, Montreal), MacKenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan), Maltwood Museum (University of Victoria, B.C.), Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Museum London (Ontario), Nickle Arts Museum (Calgary, Alberta), Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, N.B.), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), University of Lethbridge Art Gallery (Lethbridge, Alberta), Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies (Banff, Alberta), Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba) and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), which has 27 of his works in its collection. In the USA his works are in the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, D.C.),and in the Walker Art Center (Minniapolis, Minnesota).

His most well-known mural is the 5' x 21' Flight without Vehicle (1963) at the Edmonton International Airport. Along with numerous magazine illustrations he also illustrated the book Homage, Henry Kelsey: A Poem in Five Parts (1981), by Jon Whyte (see AskART book references).

Burton’s awards and honors include the J.F.M Stewart Scholarship, the R.S. McLaughlin Scholarship, a Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* scholarship, and a travelling scholarship to study at the University of Southern California, all awarded while he attended the Ontario College of Art. He also won First Prize, at the Walker Art Center Biennial (1958); First Prize at the Winnipeg Biennial, Manitoba (1968); and he is the recipient of four Canada Council* grants (1961, 1968, 1970 and 1975).


(1) In 1959, Burton along with artists Gordon Rayner and Graham Coughtry organized the first “happening” in Toronto, which took place in Burton’s studio. In 1965, Burton along with Richard Gorman, Gordon Rayner, Harold Town and Walter Yarwood organized a “happening” at the Art Gallery of Toronto, which was “attended by more than two thousand people.” Source: Pages 83 – 84, Contemporary Canadian Art (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff (see AskART book references).

(2) Please note: All artists mentioned in this biography and its footnotes, except those with life-dates after their name, have their own records in AskART.

(3) The "Four Canadians" in the 1957 Art Gallery of Toronto exhibition were Dennis Burton, Tom Hodgson, Kazuo Nakamura, and Gustav Weisman (1926 – 2000). Source: Art Gallery of Ontario.


Canadian Who’s Who – 2011 (2011), edited by Lynn Browne and Gwen Peroni (see AskART book references)

The Visual Arts in Canada: The Twentieth Century (2010), by Brian Foss, Anne Whitelaw, Sandra Paikowsky (see AskART book references)

Abstract Painting in Canada (2008), by Roald Nasgaard (see AskART book references)

Benezit Dictionary of Artists (2006), English version (see AskART book references)

Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (see AskART book references)

The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references)

Canadian Art in the Twentieth Century (1999), by Joan Murray (see AskART book references)

A Dictionary of Canadian Artists A to F 5th edition (1997), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references)

Art and Architecture in Canada (1991), by Loren R. Lerner and Mary F. Williamson (see AskART book references)

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: Spring Exhibitions 1880 – 1970 (1988), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)

Catalogue of the National Gallery of Canada Ottawa: Canadian Art Volume One A – F (1988), general editors Charles C. Hill and Pierre B. Landry (see AskART book references)

The Canadian Encyclopedia (1985), edited by James H. Marsh (see AskART book references)

Visions – Contemporary Art in Canada (1983), edited by Robert Bringhurst, et al. (see AskART book references)

Contemporary Canadian Art (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff (see AskART book references)

Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979" (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)

Modern Painting in Canada: Major Movements in Twentieth Century Canadian Art (1978), by Terry Fenton and Karen Wilkin (see AskART book references)

The Index of Ontario Artists (1978), edited by Hennie Wolff (see AskART book references)

Dennis Burton Retrospective (1977), Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa (see AskART book references)

The Ontario Community Collects: A Survey of Canadian Painting from 1766 to the Present” (1975), by William C. Forsey (see AskART book references)

The History of Painting in Canada – Toward a Peoples Art (1974), by Barry Lord (see AskART book references)

A Concise History of Canadian Painting (1973), by Dennis Reid (see AskART book references)

Four Decades: The Canadian Group of Painters and their contemporaries – 1930 - 1970 (1972), by Paul Duval (see AskART book references)

The Nude in Canadian Painting (1972), by Jerrold Morris (see AskART book references)

Art Gallery of Ontario – The Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield (see AskART book references)

Canadian Art Today (1970), by William Townsend (see AskART book references)

Great Canadian Painting: A Century of Art (1966), by Elizabeth Kilbourn (see AskART book references)

Canadian Heritage Information Network*

Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art* (illustrations, OSA exhibitions)

Art Gallery of Ontario (catalogue summaries online)

E.P. Taylor Research Library and Archives, Art Gallery of Ontario

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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