Mary Rose Hill Burton

Mary Rose Hill Burton (10 July 1859 – 5 June 1900) was a Scottish artist and conservationist.[1]

Early life and educationEdit

Mary Rose Hill Burton was born in Edinburgh in 1859, into a well-educated and prominent family: her father was historian John Hill Burton, and her grandfather was legal scholar Cosmo Innes. Her uncle was Robert Finlay, who served as Lord Chancellor of Great Britain; and her aunt, Mary Burton, was the first female director of the Watt Institution and School of Arts in Edinburgh.[2] Mary Rose's mother, Katherine Innes Burton, had studied sculpture before working as a nurse in the Crimean War, and was an officer in the Edinburgh Ladies' Educational Association (ELEA). The Burtons were friends to the young Arthur Conan Doyle.[3][4][5][6][7]

Mary Rose was educated with support from the Edinburgh Association for the University Education of Women, and pursued further art studies in Munich and Paris, under the instruction of Gustave Courtois and Raphael Collins, among others.[8]


Mary Rose Hill Burton's paintings (still lifes, landscapes, and street scenes) were exhibited through the Royal Scottish Academy and the Society of Scottish Artists. She was a founder of the Edinburgh Lady Artists' Club (1889). In 1895 and 1896, she had two solo exhibitions in London, to showcase works from her travels in Japan, painted while visiting her older brother W. K. Burton.[9] Burton painted murals as well, most notably a series of panels depicting the seasons, in the dining room of St. Giles' House, Ramsay Garden, the property of sociologist Patrick Geddes.[10][11] "Miss Hill Burton may be heartily congratulated upon the complete success of her undertaking," noted a contemporary critic of the mural.[12] She also taught a course in "Painting and Decoration" at the Old Edinburgh School of Art.[13][14]

Mary Rose Hill Burton was active in the unsuccessful resistance against the North British Aluminium Company's plans to locate a smelting plant at the scenic Falls of Foyers, near her residence in the Highlands. She made many drawings and paintings of the Falls before the plant was built, to capture the landscape before it was lost.[15][16]

Mary Rose Hill Burton died in 1900, while traveling and working in Rome; she was 42 years old.[17]


  1. ^ Janice Helland, "Mary Rose Hill Burton," in Elizabeth Ewan, Sue Innes, Sian Reynolds and Rose Pipes, eds., The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women (Edinburgh University Press 2007): p. 55.
  2. ^ Ann Jones, "Mary Burton," in Elizabeth Ewan, Sue Innes, Sian Reynolds and Rose Pipes, eds., The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women (Edinburgh University Press 2007): p. 54-55.
  3. ^ Andrew Lycett, The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes (Simon and Schuster 2008): 40.
  4. ^ Katherine Burton, ed. A Memoir of Mrs. Crudelius (Printed for Private Circulation by Miller Sons, 1879).
  5. ^ Martin Booth, The Doctor and the Detective: A Biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Macmillan 2000): p. 15.
  6. ^ Katherine Burton, Memoir of Cosmo Innes (Edinburgh: William Paterson 1874).
  7. ^ M. C. Curthoys, "Burton, William Kinninmond (1856–1899)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, May 2010) accessed 30 March 2014 as archived article (no longer current version).
  8. ^ "Small Talk," The Sketch: A Journal of Art and Actuality 14(20 May 1896): p. 142.
  9. ^ Japan: Watercolor Drawings of M. R. Hill Burton, catalogue of exhibition, Clifford Gallery (1895).
  10. ^ Clare A. P. Willsdon, Mural Painting in Britain, 1840-1940 (Oxford University Press 2000): p. 322.
  11. ^ Janice Helland, Professional Women Painters in Nineteenth-Century Scotland: Commitment, Friendship, Pleasure (Ashgate 2000).
  12. ^ "Studio-Talk," The Studio 13(1898): p. 48-49.
  13. ^ Peter Burman, Architecture 1900 (Donhead 1998): p. 246.
  14. ^ Nicola Gordon Bowe and Elizabeth Cumming, The Arts and Crafts Movements in Dublin & Edinburgh: 1885-1925 (Irish Academic Press 1998): p. 27.
  15. ^ Janice Helland, "Artistic Advocate: Mary Rose Hill Burton and the Falls of Foyers," Scottish Economic and Social History 17(November 1997): 127-147.
  16. ^ James Britten, "The Falls of Foyers," Nature Notes: The Selborne Society's Magazine 6(69)(September 1895): p. 162.
  17. ^ C. Gasquoine Hartley, "The Paris Club of International Women Artists," Art Journal 62(1900): p. 284.