Early American marine artists are more often than not European immigrants taught in the traditions and schools of their native lands. Burnham is a notable exception to this, demonstrating an accomplished style and refined eye in the execution of his marine, landscape and genre paintings. Technically sharp, the joy of an American-born artist painting marines before the popularity of the later 1800s is seldom found.
Burnham was born in Boston, and after completing an informal art education and his first trip abroad, he worked in a sign painting shop in Detroit in 1836. After this he opened a portrait studio. Upon this business's success, he traveled to Scotland in 1839, painting images from direct observation. He then returned to his hometown, where he practiced his professions for another 12 years before settling for the remainder of his years in Melrose, Massachusetts.
Without challenge, Burnham's rare surviving works are reminiscent of the scenes of his British and American counterparts, notably his skies in comparison to those of the Buttersworth family. His portrayals of strong narrative character combined with artistic attention to form, use of color, and emotion make his sailing subjects worthy of any collection.
Burnham Exhibited with the prestigious National Academy of Design, New York, as well as with the Boston Athenaeum and the Apollo Associates, Boston.