The Beauty of Art

May 08, 2023

Ray Alden Burt (1921 – 1997) was a New Hampshire artist who grew up in Thetford.  He took courses in art education at Plymouth State University and taught at Cardigan Mountain School, Kimball Union Academy, and other schools.  His work was often exhibited around New Hamsphire. He and his wife Mary Elizabeth lived in East Thetford and on Route 4 in Lebanon.

“Alden” as he was known, painted New Hampshire homesteads, barns, and landscapes.

I can’t remember when I met him, but during the 1970’s, I would often visit his small home and studio on Route 4.   I would often seek his counsel.

If you asked me to describe him, I would suggest he looked like Robert Frost, with a warm smile, deep voice, and full head of hair. He often wore a plaid wool or flannel shirt.

My Aunt Ruth Millar bought one of his watercolors and it is a painting I have always loved.  It is an apparently abandoned barn with the door open and spider’s webs in the corner.  In the clutter apparent through the door there is a pair of white slippers.  They could be ballet slippers, or perhaps white shoes worn at a wedding.  There is in this image both joy and sadness.  The recognition of a beginning and an ending.

He gave me a painting in the 1980’s that is a landscape near Mt. Cardigan in Canaan.  It captures the brown and deep green tones of the fall.

Recently I found a letter from Alden sent on February 18,1981.  With all the attention being focuses on technology and artificial intelligence I thought I would share it with you.

I have come to realize that there is little reason to take a year away from teaching at this time. Commencing with the inaugural address with re-enforcement by other turns of events, I have seen each project I planned eroded to naught.  All the work left to do can be done and not disturb my teaching schedule.  With the present attitudes toward art education, I feel that an already threatened activity would fare even more badly if I abandoned it for even a year at this time.

I can think of no basic more important to learning than art. What is more basic than the very disciplines that brought forth the symbols used in written communication. Art in two-dimensional form still is a more effective communicator than all the media machines on earth.  Over ninety percent of communication is by written form.  

The warm weather flooded the studio but there was no damage to any of the work in progress, finished work, or materials.

I am looking forward to spring; that time of rebirth in all nature and the restoration of joy of life to all in its season.

 Alden’s letter to me is a reminder of the importance of art – literature, music, dance – in our lives.