caption: Elizabeth Eaton Burton and her daughter Helen (Courtesy Mary Burton Fussell)
caption: Elizabeth Eaton Burton's studio as published in The Craftsman, July 1904
caption: Aerial view of Hammersmith Farm, Newport, Rhode Island.
THE BURTON LAMP FROM HAMMERSMITH FARM
Elizabeth Eaton Burton typified the Arts & Crafts movement of Southern California, using simple and local materials, emphasizing hand-craftsmanship, and taking her inspiration from the surrounding nature. Burton was born in Paris in 1869 and lived in Europe until 1886, when her family moved to Santa Barbara. At seventeen years old, Elizabeth looked forward to the move and later wrote warmly of Santa Barbara in her Scrap Book: "Here was a landscape unsurpassed for its beauty of mountains and sea, with the most wonderful climate in the world and a luxurious vegetation" (Elizabeth Eaton Burton, My Santa Barbara Scrap Book, n.d., p. 2). This love of her environment and her admiration of her father's work led Burton to create intricate metal and shell lighting fixtures, such as the lot offered here.
Charles Frederick Eaton, her father, established himself in California as an Arts & Crafts designer and produced hand-made books, objects in tooled leather, and metal lamps sometimes decorated with shells. Burton had a very close relationship with him and professed that she "had inherited his inclination towards the artistic side of life, and so whatever interested him interested me" (Scrap Book, p. 67). Like Eaton, she hand-crafted leather, metals, and shells to create designs that established her as a popular Arts & Crafts artist. Copper and brass were becoming increasingly popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, during the height of the Arts & Crafts movement, and both Eaton and Burton used the metals proficiently for lighting fixtures. Burton published a catalogue of her pieces, Hand-Wrought Electric Lamps and Sconces, which opened with her declaration, "the decoration of a home, has caused me to give this line of work especial attention. The combination of Shells with their beautiful natural coloring and opalescent tints, and the hand-wrought Metal, is particularly effective in Decorative Lighting" (Burton, Hand-Wrought Electric Lamps and Sconces, n.d., n.p. California Historical Society. Library. CC B95). All the featured lamps were available in plain or greened brass or copper, and they included a variety of shells. The catalogue offered over thirty models of lamps, sconces, and electroliers, and she held several examples of most models in her inventory.
In a 1904 article in The Craftsman, Gustav Stickley wrote of Burton's lamps and sconces, "In these the exquisite choice of the shells, the intelligent use of the patina--or iridescent coating of the metal, such as would result from inhumation--as well as the studies of line offered by the design awaken the admiration of one who carefully examines them even to the point of surprise" (Gustav Stickley, "Nature and Art in California," The Craftsman, July 1904: 388-389). Indeed, the shells were what gave her lamps a unique quality, and she carefully integrated them into the whole, designing the lamp "to embrace the shell form, swirl around it in rhythmical lines, and when lit [bring] it out as a jewel in its setting" (Scrap Book, p. 122).
Burton participated in the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in Saint Louis, sending an illuminated leather chest, two leather and shell table mats, a metal and shell student lamp shade, a shell tea screen, and a Philippine window shell lamp shade on a copper frame. In 1909, Burton received a gold medal at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle where she again exhibited her leather and metal wares. Her work also became well-known on the East coast. Her father's family descended from the founders of Rhode Island, and she had ties with relatives in Providence. She exhibited at the Tilden-Thurber Gallery there, and in the late 1920s, Burton stayed in Newport for a short while.
The lamp offered here illustrates Burton's masterful hand-craftsmanship and attention to detail. The shade's finely chased and repoussé boughs of pine cones and needles, and the base's depiction of the roots and irregularities of the trunk create an artistic rendering of nature.
Property of the Heirs of the Estate of Janet Lee Auchincloss from Hammersmith Farm