Elizabeth Eaton Burton
Known for her keen sense of materials and unusual aesthetic, Elizabeth Eaton Burton was often influenced by the landscape of her native Southern California and its rich history of local traditions. Burton was versatile in many mediums from leatherwork to woodblock printing to painting and photography. Yet her use of shells within repoussé metalwork left a lasting impression.
Burton was born in 1869 in Paris, France to notable artist Charles Frederick Eaton (1842-1930) and Helen Justice Mitchell, who was also artistically inclined. Mr. Eaton was from a prominent East Coast family and studied painting in Paris. Elizabeth spent her childhood in France until her mother’s health declined and her father’s cramping ailment required him to give up painting.
An avid antique collector, Mr. Eaton eventually created his own metalwork, leatherwork, and woodwork. In her scrapbook, Elizabeth fondly recalled spending time observing her father in the studio as cabinetmakers worked. She and her father shared a close bond and he influenced her work tremendously.
The family moved to Santa Barbara, California when Elizabeth was 17. This ended up proving essential to Elizabeth’s creative development. She was captivated by the local craftsmen and drew inspiration from the Mexican leatherwork traditions manifest in saddles, belts, bags, and other small goods. Elizabeth refined her skills with help from the craftsmen and began creating her own leather and wood pieces.
Artistic Works and Legacy
In 1896, she opened her first studio and continually experimented with new methods of designing ornamental leatherwork. She also produced screens, friezes, boxes, cushions, and desk accessories. Her work was well received by peers, including Gustav Stickley, one of the leaders of the American Arts and Crafts Movement.
Elizabeth Eaton Burton’s eclectic vision led to success in her own time and burnished her artistic reputation for posterity. Today her work is included in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Red Roses Foundation, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, the Museum of California Design, and in many private collections.Contact a Specialist View all Artists/Makers