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  • Carla Nunez, Intern

Providence Artist Sydney Richmond Burleigh and the Lippitt Family

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

Through my research of the Lippitt family’s art collection for my summer internship, I learned the Lippitt family acquired works by New England artists from local exhibitions, auctions, as well as commissioned original portraits of family members. Today the museum owns several family portraits including one of Mary Anne Balch Lippitt (1827-1889), which originally hung in her daughter Jeannie’s bedchamber, by Rhode Island watercolorist Sydney Richmond Burleigh. In addition to watercolors, Burleigh worked in various mediums and also illustrated books and designed furniture. I was interested in researching Sydney Richmond Burleigh’s life because of our shared interest in illustration. His artistic career reminded me that careers aren’t predictable. Opportunities and interests change for everyone. In a sense, Burleigh’s life is motivational in the ways he embraced each new interest he had.

Born July 7, 1853, in Little Compton, Rhode Island, Sydney Burleigh was primarily known for his watercolor paintings. In 1872, at the age of 19, Burleigh started his artistic career as a draftsman at Brown & Sharp, sketching tools made by the company. Burleigh began taking watercolor lessons from Sarah Wilkinson, a talented watercolorist who had taken art lessons from prominent Rhode Island artists. Sydney and Sarah married in 1875 and traveled to Europe to continue their art studies. The couple returned to Providence and Sydney’s artistic success increased. Burleigh was a founding member of the Providence Art Club founded in 1880. In 1886, Burleigh designed a new studio space which he named “Fleur de Lys,” which continues today as an active studio space for the Providence Art Club.