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Anita Willets-Burnham: Round the World on a Penny

Anita Willets-Burnham’s watercolors reveal her determination, courage, optimism, and energy, and bring to life her stories of traveling with a family of six. According to her granddaughter, unlike most Americans traveling abroad on the European Grand Tour, “the Burnhams traveled Third Class ‘because there wasn’t a Fourth,’ bargained for everything from beds to new shoes, and traded paintings for meals – all making for some fascinating tales”, and captivating paintings. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Chicago, Willets-Burnham, at the age of thirteen, had the good fortune of attending Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian

Exposition; this greatly influenced the young Anita, and made her determined to pursue an artistic career. Formally trained at the Art Institute of Chicago, she later went on to study Impressionist techniques with William Merritt Chase at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Frank Vincent DuMond at the Art Students League. In 1906, she married Alfred Burnham, nephew of the well-known architect Daniel Burnham.

At the age of 41, she courageously took her family of six on a “world trip”, 1921-22. While in Paris she studied with Impressionist Cecelia Beaux,

and was invited to exhibit at the Paris Spring Salon of 1922. A second family “world trip” took place 1928-30. Upon their return, Willets-Burnham wrote Round the World on a Penny, which was first published in 1933. She went on to exhibit her work on a nationwide circuit simultaneously giving lectures on the trials and tribulations of family travel. Her vision and talent attracted many supporters during her lifetime, including her longtime friend Frank Lloyd Wright.

With this exhibition, we hope you too will become an admirer of her work.