D & P from Solvang writes me that a family member was a 1970’s Central Coast antiques dealer: she found this lamp in Santa Barbara. D & P suspect it is from the Studio of Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Woman Extraordinaire, Elizabeth Eaton Burton, a “Mission Style” trailblazer in the early 1900’s. The Santa Barbara Historical Museum’s Anne and Michael Towbes Museum Store will sell you a copy of the Museum’s 2011 publication about the life of Elizabeth Eaton Burton: My Santa Barbara Scrapbook: A Portrait of the Artist Elizabeth Eaton Burton, authored by local historian Hattie Beresford, and the Museum’s Director of Research, Michael Redmon.
This book, I find, is given as ‘reference literature’ underneath the listings of Burton’s objects which are sold at auction, Nationwide; perhaps because the book draws upon her artistry from both the collections of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and private collectors. The book, a glimpse into the Bohemian life of Burton in our once Bohemian town, also includes Burton’s later work in Japanese inspired watercolors and wood-block prints, as well as images of her work in lighting, with shell and metal, hand wrought electrified lamps and sconces, from Burton’s early Santa Barbara studio.
D & P write that although they have researched Burton’s lighting creations in metal and abalone shell, they have not discovered one like theirs, which has an arched arm terminating in an open-mouthed dragon/griffin, supporting a fixture draped with 6-shell petals. They see a very small stamp: “Studio,” on the base, and the telltale Burton signature mark of metal bands on the arm.
The Auction sale of December 2011 at Sotheby’s featured a similar piece of Burton lighting, a patinated copper sconce with Abalone shell fixture, circa 1902, which sold for $7,500. Now, a published auction sale references both Provenance and Literature about pieces; sales of Burton’s objects more often than not referenced Beresford and Redmon’s book. So, also, did a sale at Toomey-Treadway Auctions of a Burton lamp of June 2014. This particular Burton lamp, a copper lily pad base with a long stem terminating in a lotus shaped abalone shell shade, estimated to sell at $6-8,000, but sold for $18,300.
One of the bibles of the art world for research, Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975, ed. Peter Hastings Falke, 1999, states that Burton was born in Paris in 1869. Darrel Karl, author of "The Asian Autumn of Mrs. Burton", posted on the blog Eastern Impressions: Western Printmakers and the Orient, writes Burton had a colorful girlhood, the daughter of two artists from prominent East Coast families, who met at art school at the Sorbonne. Burton, before she was of age, traveled from Paris to Versailles, Nice, Brittany, Italy, Switzerland and India. Her childhood pal was the younger sister of John Singer Sargent, whose family lifestyle paralleled the Burton’s. In fact, Burton is said to have painted in watercolor “after” Sargent as a young girl. She boarded at school, first in England and then Germany, but, owing to her mother’s poor health, Burton’s father moved the family to Santa Barbara.
Elizabeth in 1886 met Santa Barbara developer William (Billy) Waples Burton at a dance, and both felt the influence of the style of the late 19th century, Asian Exoticism, Japonisme or Orientalism. There’s an old photo of Billy Burton dressed in a kimono in the forefront of the Arlington Theatre in 1887 for a “Mikado” party. Santa Barbara of the late 19th century partook of a decidedly Spanish Influence, but, less publicized, Santa Barbara of the late 19th century felt an Asian Influence as well, with, of course, a Santa Barbara Chinatown; notable families studied Asian Arts & Crafts, and were especially affected by Japanese aesthetics in woodblocks, architecture and furniture designs.
Burton’s father, Charles Eaton, set up a Santa Barbara “Arts & Crafts” studio; his daughter was his pupil and opened her own studio in 1896. The daughter was remarkable: receiving patents for a leathercraft process used on furniture, and developing those “shell lamps” from either Philippine window shell or abalone. Vogue of 1901 wrote of her shows in California and New York; she traveled to St. Louis in 1904 to show at the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition. Gustav Stickley wrote about her leather screens in his magazine The Craftsman. In 1909, she won the Gold Medal at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in Seattle. Mrs. Burton, says Who Was Who in American Art, also had a Los Angeles studio address by 1909. This remarkable Santa Barbara artist’s lamp belonging to D & P is worth $15,000 if authenticated to Burton.
Certified appraiser for estates, inheritances and trusts.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart's column appears every week in the Salon & Style section of the Santa Barbara News Press. Email her your questions and high-resolution photos at ElizabethAppraisals @ gmail.com
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