Rodney Joseph Burn (11th July 1899 - 11th August 1984)

He was born in Palmers Green into a wealthy family, his father was Sir Joseph Burn which was chairman of the Prudential Insurance Company.   He attended Harrow School.   

After serving in the first World War he went attended the Slade School of Art (1918 – 1922), where he won Six major prizes and also met his future wife, the Sculptor Dorothy Sharwood Smith.   Burn was one of the art school graduates selected to produce some large works for the London County Council which were to depict scenes from London Parks for the newly built County Hall.

He taught at the Royal College of Art from 1929 – 1931 and then he moved to America where, together with Robin Guthrie, became Joint Director of Painting and drawing at the ‘School of the Museum of Fine Arts’, in Boston from 1931 – 1934.

During the second World War, Burn worked at the Civil Defence Camouflage Establishment and lsater he painted a number of commissions for the War Artists’ Advisory Committee.   After the war he returned to teach at the Royal College of Art, where he became a Senior Tutor, up until he retirement in 1965.   During his career he also taught at the ‘Camberwell School of Art’ and the ‘City and Guilds of London Art School’.   I understand that he continued teaching at the later well after 1965. 


He lived at one time down near Chichester and enjoyed sailing.   I can’t remember if I read somewhere, or someone told me, that he claimed his yacht as a tax business allowance against tax as he claimed it was a tool for his work as he often painted the coast from his boat!   I have no way of verifying this so it may or may not be true!

I understand that he also lived next to the river near Strand on the Green and he used to burn drift wood on his fire.   I remember somone who knew him, telling me that when he was quite elderly he would wait until he saw some strong fellows coming, then he would go down onto the shore and pretend to start struggling with a large bit of driftwood at which point the people walking past would offer to help and he would accept their offer!

He was a member of the New English Art Club from 1924 and he was elected  Associate member of the Royal Academy in 1954 (becoming a full member in 1962).   He was also a member of the Royal West of England Academy and a one time president of the St Ives Society of Artists

Click on image for more details