Remembering artist Edith Burger

Posted on January 5, 2021 by

Artist and arts patron Edith Williams Burger told her friend Liz Trull Burke that she thought she had a couple more years left to live when they visited recently — and that would have been no small feat since Burger was 109 years old.

Edith Burger, 109, passed away on December 20.

  Unfortunately, she was mistaken. Burger, who formerly lived in Lowell, passed away on December 20 in the nursing home section of Newbury Court in Concord, where she had lived for the past few decades.

  “She was amazing, determined and brilliant,” said Burke. “She loved Lowell and lived and breathed Whistler.” 

  Born on May 19, 1911, Burger was the president of the Lowell Art Association-Whistler House Museum of Art for over 35 years and supported all of its activities.

  “Edith, our oldest member ever, was the jewel of the Lowell Art Association and the Whistler House Museum of Art for over 80 years. She not only guided the organization as president, but was an artist in her own right. She was amazing – bright, lucid, and engaging, and even in the end, was able to recall information from many years ago,” said Sara Bogosian, executive director of the Whistler House. 

  Burger was married to attorney Calvin Burger and lived in Lowell’s Belvidere section before moving to Concord. Besides the Whistler House and Lowell Art Association, she was active in many other community organizations including the Lowell General Hospital Auxiliary, Middlesex Women’s Club, Lowell Garden Club, and the Paint and Powder Club. She was the first woman to serve on the board of directors of Lowell General Hospital.

  An accomplished watercolor and portrait artist, Burger studied with Wallace Rugg, who lived in the Greater Lowell area.

  Lowell artist Janet Lambert Moore has known Burger for over 70 years, ever since Moore started painting herself as a child.

‘Lorna Doone,’ a portrait by Edith Burger

  “She did wonderful watercolor sketches from her travels with Calvin and kept them in notebooks,” said Moore. “And she did fabulous portraits, including one of the actress Bette Davis (who was born in Lowell).” 

  Burger donated the painting to the Whistler House, one of many artworks, antiques and historic books that she also gave to the museum.

  Burger remained active in her later years at Newbury Court, starting a flourishing art group there, said Burke.

  She loved having her Lowell friends visit and often welcomed them for lunch, recalled Bogosian.  

  “We always started with a small glass of brandy — which I believe was her secret to a long life. We would invite her to the Whistler House to celebrate her birthday every May with children from our youth art program. It was always a wonderful time for all who loved her,” said Bogosian.  

  Even in her final days, Burger was extremely animated and had a wonderful spirit, said Burke.

  Her passing is “the end of an era,” said Moore.

  Burger hoped to have a funeral at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Lowell, but arrangements have not yet been announced.

Gallery notes

SURREAL SHOW: “New and Worsening Conditions,” featuring the work of Lowell artist Robb Sandagata, is on view online through January 20 at the Linda Hummel-Shea ArtSpace at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill. Using marker and acrylic paint, the artist explores various aspects of the human condition in the 26 artworks on view. Sandagata uses “surrealism, parody, humor and grotesque imagery” in his work that includes references to pop culture, music, politics and social issues mixed with grotesque portraiture and raw emotions. “Characters engage in implied, uncertain narratives — struggling for power, facing heartbreak and uncertainty, finding strength to push against oppression, horror and chronic illness,” he explains. Born in New Haven, Ct., he studied sculpture and liberal arts at Sarah Lawrence College. He lives in Lowell with his wife Emily, some dogs and “piles of artwork.” To see the exhibit, visit https://mcclump3.wixsite.com/website-1. For more info, contact Marc Mannheimer, gallery coordinator, at mmannheimer@necc.mass.edu.

‘Alone Together’ by Robb Sandagata

NEW IN NH: The artwork titles are almost as intriguing as the works themselves in “A New Day,” the New Hampshire Art Association’s New Member Exhibit on view this month in the Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery, 136 State Street, Portsmouth, NH. Among them are ”Why We Go To Florida,” “Loon’s Eye View” “Hunters in the Snow” and “Hellish Sunrise.” All are on view and for sale, now for viewing in person in the gallery windows and online at www.nhartassociation.org. A Zoom reception for the artists is slated for this evening, Thursday, January 7 at 6 p.m. Access it by going directly to www.zoom.us and using the following login info. Meeting ID: 810 4713 2330; passcode 863891.

OUT AND ABOUT: Lisa Kovvuri, a contemporary realist painter specializing in portraiture, is Lowell’s Whistler House Museum of Art’s January Artist of the Month. Honored with numerous awards, she had a well-received solo show in 2017 at the Whistler House and works full-time in her southern New Hampshire studio. For info or to purchase her paintings, contact sbogosian@whistlerhouse.org or call 978-807-6699…Learn all about arms and armor used by Roman soldiers, Medieval knights and more on the Worcester Art Museum’s live-stream Arms and Armor Presentation this Saturday, January 9, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Facebook Live. Use this link to access the program: https://www.worcesterart.org/events/?wamid=252767.

Nancye Tuttle’s email address is nancyedt@verizon.net

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