b. Livingston, Montana, 1889 or 1895–d. Chicago, 1961
Charles Copeland Burg was born in Montana in 1889 or 1895 and had virtually no formal training in art. He worked for the Chicago American (known as the Chicago Herald-American from 1939–53), and became the paper’s art critic during the 1930s. He began exhibiting his own paintings in 1939 at venues nationwide, including the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC. Burg was given a solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Room of Chicago Art in 1943 and was included in group exhibitions for the museum’s Society of Contemporary Art.
An exhibition brochure at the Rockford Art Association in 1939 described his choice of subject matter as: “the crummier parts of the city—but they are painted with a sympathetic, unpatronizing air which induces the spectator to feel rather pleased with it all, in the same way that the painter was.” Burg’s oil on masonite, Chicago Scene (Pilsen or Heart of Chicago Neighborhood), lives up to this description. A leafless tree emerges from an unspecified location in the foreground to block the viewer’s access to the scene. Behind its scraggly branches is a quiet residential street in Chicago, with a typical two-story structure in bright red, and a looming water tower atop a large building or factory in the background—a sympathetically rendered yet “crummy” part of town.
Burg, Copeland. Pamphlet file P-00203. Ryerson Library. Art Institute of Chicago.