Milton J. Burns was a student of J.G. Brown and a founding member of the Salmagundi Sketch Club in 1871. During his most prolific period, from 1871-1899, Burns worked both as a painter and illustrator. His primary income was from illustration and his works were published in Harper's Weekly, Scribner's and Literary Digest.
During his lifetime, Burns was one of America's most highly acclaimed marine artists, and one of the few to have experienced being a sailor himself. One critic noted that he looked "as much a sailor as he does an artist." Burns was introduced to marine painting when he accompanied William Bradford on an arctic voyage in 1869. In the early 1870s he became friends with Winslow Homer and went with him on several sketching trips.
Burns and Homer shared the belief that the artist should go directly to nature for inspiration. Burns' experience of the sea is palpable in his paintings. One critic wrote of his marine works: "He painted them vividly and strongly, for he shared the perils of the life and mixed his oils with more than a dash of sea salt." Another critic wrote: "Burns is much more than a painter or illustrator of fishing life. He is the fisherman's friend, a devoted, understanding friend, his interpreter to the world."
Biography courtesy of Roughton Galleries, www.antiquesandfineart.com/roughton