Watercolourist John Burgess was born in Birmingham; the son of landscape painter John Cart Burgess (1788/9-1863) and Charlotte (born c.1792), daughter of painter and engraver Anker Smith (1759-1819). Burgess became a painter after an early career on the sea. In about 1833 he went to Italy via Normandy and Paris, and stayed there until 1837. At this period he was striving to be a figure painter, but he later turned to landscape. On his return he made sketching tours in Devon, Surrey and the Thames Valley, and in 1840 settled in Leamington Spa. In 1851 he was elected an associate member of the Society of Painters in Watercolour. Burgess was still living in Wellington Street, Leamington Spa, when his father died at that address in 1863.
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