Our latest exhibition, Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart is opening on Wednesday, September 3. Emerson Burkhart (1905-1969) ruled the Columbus art scene during the 1950s and 1960s with his honest portraits and depictions of life in the city. While Burkhart was praised for his artistic skill, conflicts in his personal and professional life prevented him from receiving national attention. Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart displays never seen artwork by Burkhart, including the original sketches for the controversial mural Music.
The Ohio History Connection is fortunate to have a large archival collection of letters, personal mementos, and notes from the artist in MSS 440. Part of this collection includes books from Burkhart’s personal library. Burkhart used these books to keep track of paintings he sold, experiment with block printing, and even wrote letters in them. When doing research for the exhibition, a passionate letter was found to his wife Mary Ann in A Bibliography of the First Editions of John Cowper Pawys. Emerson and Mary Ann had a troubled relationship and simple arguments often turned into loud brawls. After one particularly bad fight, Mary Ann left the house and Burkhart wrote this letter to her in the book,
“If you go, I die, where you are there I want to be also. I talk reason but sweetheart there is no logic in love…Mary Ann you tromp on my tears, what do I need to do to convince you I love you. Why did I let you go and in a storm? Yes the world is coming to an end for me.”
To learn more about their relationship and to see the portrait of Mary Ann painted by Emerson, visit Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart opening September 3.The exhibit will be displayed in the Archives Library 3rd floor gallery and a companion piece on creating art using Burkhart’s mediums will be in the Spotlight Gallery on the first floor of the Museum Center.
Emily Lang, History Curator