Racine native Robert Burkert (1930 – 2019) long ago established himself as a significant contemporary printmaker and draftsman. Willing to experiment with materials and approaches, he has also gained the reputation of being a risk-taker applying his technical facility to creating drawings in a variety of media, lithographs, serigraphs, monoprints, and oil paintings.
Burkert established early connections with RAM’s Wustum Museum of Fine Arts where he took classes with Sylvester Jerry—a painter and Wustum’s first Director—and his wife, the artist and educator, Cherry Barr Jerry. He created some of his first lithographs in Wustum’s printmaking studio. Other early noteworthy interactions with art include his studies with influential Racine high school art teacher, Helen Sawyer; his work with commercial artists during both high school and college; and side projects produced with Racine’s Western Publishing Company.
Earning both BS and MA degrees from University of Wisconsin-Madison, Burkert accepted a position at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he eventually became the head of the Graphics Department where he taught for over 45 years, retiring in 1993. Along with his wife, Nancy Ekholm Burkert—an award-winning artist and children’s book illustrator—Burkert continues to be a major figure with roots in Wisconsin.
Burkert’s subjects have included landscapes, seascapes, figures, and self-portraits, among others. He has described his work as figurative yet also references the importance of changes in light, mood, or other intangibles. His frequently evolving aesthetic style has led to work that is both representational and abstracted, detail-oriented or moody. In the 1960s, he gained national attention for his innovations in screen printing in which he gives the impression that the colors are blending subtly in ways the process usually does not allow.
His works can be found in many important museum collections including the: Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Tate Britain, London; Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Burkert’s work is reproduced in several publications including A Century of American Printmaking 1880-1980, American Prints and Printmakers, The Art of the Print, The Complete Printmaker, and The Craft of Master Drawings.