Alexander Hohenlohe Burr was born in Manchester but brought up in Edinburgh with his brother, the fellow painter John Burr. Together they entered the Trustees' Academy under the tutelage of John Ballantyne and Robert Scott Lauder. Burr's precocious talent was evident from his first exhibits at the Royal Scottish Academy. His initial contribution, The Fruit Stall, was acquired by the then secretary, Mr D. Hill; his second, The Politicians, was purchased and engraved for the Association for the Promotion of Fine Arts in Scotland.
This work derives from early in Burr's career, but as a historical genre scene wherein each figure demands our attention, it is typical of the artist's oeuvre. He was later to exhibit at the Royal Academy, Suffolk Street and the British Institution.
In 1859 Burr was honoured to be selected, along with such established names as Sir George Harvey and Horatio McCulloch, to contribute a design which would then be engraved for an edition of Burns' poems. He painted the present picture, based on the penultimate verse of Logan Braes (or Logan Water, 1793), in which a widow contrasts the felicity seen in the natural world with her own plight:
Within yon milk-white hawthorn bush,
Amang her nestlings sits the thrush:
Her faithfu' mate will share her toil,
Or wi' his song her cares beguile;
But I wi' my sweet nurslings here,
Nae mate to help, nae mate to cheer,
Pass widow'd nights and joyless days,
While Willie's far frae Logan braes."
Burr invests this apparent idyll with psychological tension, as the widow's gaze strays from her two carefree children and the sleeping baby. He has delineated his subject meticulously, and the light is particularly delicate, both as it contours the figures and filters through the trees on to the grass.
The Art Journal, who dedicated a monograph to Burr in 1870, praised the picture as '..a very charming composition, in which the figures and the landscape divide attention almost equally' and noted how the two children '..are capitally "placed",..natural and full of action'. Logan Braes was subsequently purchased by Mr Robert Horn, an Edinburgh advocate.