A True Renaissance man

Not only was Richard Burbage a player, a musician and a business man, but also a talented painter. It was not unusual in those days for a player to be at the same time a painter, but he was the most famous and his skills as an artist were often in demand. With Shakespeare as his partner, providing the commemorative words, Burbage designed an impresa, or personal badge, for the Earl of Rutland (1578-1632). It was proudly on display on the Earl’s shield at a tournament in honour of James 1 in 1613.

Perhaps young Richard Burbage had been an odd-job boy at his father’s theatre in Shoreditch. Cuthbert Burbage, being older, was more likely to have been taught how to manage the theatre, but the stage needed painting and decorating for performances and who better to arm with a paintbrush than bright eyed Richard? The experience must have taught him basic use of colour and painting techniques, which were to become so useful later.

How we wish we had more examples of his work than the sole image which hangs in Dulwich Picture Gallery. The portrait (or self- portrait), entitled mr burbig his head, is part of Mr Cartwright’s Pictures, a 17th century collection shown there in 1987-8. The catalogue notes that the odd shape of the portrait is due to the fact that the portrait had been painted to be sewn into a larger canvas, a practice which allowed the painter to work away from the studio. Although perhaps it was intended, as Cartwright thought, to be a ‘closit piece’. No one can be sure. Go and see what you think.

A painted mural on the railway bridge at the top end of Burbage Road has been commissioned by the Burbage Road Residents’ Association and generously sponsored by Network Rail, to pay homage to Richard Burbage 400 years after his death. Signage is sponsored by Dulwich Society.

 It will be a new piece of street art, a new addition to the Dulwich Outdoor Gallery an idea conceived by Ingrid Beazley. To be created in public for all to see during the 2019 Dulwich Festival.

Link to Dulwich Festival / Artists’ Open House
Link to Dulwich Picture Gallery
Link to Dulwich Picture Gallery spring 2019 In View magazine
Link to street artist Lionel Stanhope
Link to the Dulwich Society