Dennis Burton

Dennis Burton, Fourplay, Garterbelt Series, 1964/65,
oil and acrylic on canvas, 24 in. x 24 in.,
signed, titled and dated.
Price: $7,500.00 Provenance: Isaacs Gallery, Toronto

Fourplay, 1964/65 (reproduced above) is a striking example of Dennis Burton’s celebrated Garterbelt series. In Burton’s Garterbelt paintings the artist explores the female form through his experimentation with line, shape, colour, texture and volume. The exploration of the female form in the 1960s was not an uncommon subject among many of Dennis Burton’s contemporaries at the Isaacs Gallery in Toronto. Artists such as Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland, Graham Coughtry, and Robert Markle all had their own unique interests in the female subject. Their ideas were fully represented in the paintings and constructions that they produced and exhibited in the 1960s.

As artist Dennis Burton noted in a retrospective exhibition at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, “I started painting images of genitalia very obviously for the first time in paintings like Smokeshop Sex Marauder, and in the Game of Life, the painting of the breasts, the mouths and teeth, were a response to primitive art. Around the middle of 1960, I did the Game of Life, this was motivated by an African sculpture show at the Isaacs Gallery. I feel that the painting reflects the impact of primitive sculpture on me, in the same way that sculpture affected Picasso and led him to Cubism. Mike Snow and Joyce Wieland wanted to do a show of erotic art and came over to my studio early in 61’ to see if I had more things like The Game of Life, but I had nothing terribly explicit. The one most indicative of what I’d be getting into later around 1965 was Smokeshop Sex Marauder of 1960. Most people misread that painting and thought it was anything but the actual subject. Though intended as a middle-class value shock, then, in 1960, they didn’t recognize the imagery which was a close up on panties over genitals with a lot of pink texture suggesting very frilly, lacy, bikini panties. On each side left and right there was a garter strap coming down. I really did not have the construction of the garters done properly. Smokeshop Sex Marauder was abstract expressionist in execution. It was not until 1964-65 paintings when I drew the garters according to the way they were engineered.” 1

As Barry Lord, former curator of art at the New Brunswick Museum of art (1964-1966) and former art critic for the Toronto Star in the 1960’s, once commented “my strongest recollection of the Isaacs Gallery relates to its exhibitions of Dennis Burton. Unknown to both Av Isaacs and me, of course, Dennis Burton was quietly making his own little corner of art history by moving beyond his previous abstractions to a very definitely representational style, known for its subject matter as the Garter Belt Series.” 2

James Rottman Fine Art carries a significant inventory of historical artworks by Dennis Burton. Do not hesitate to contact us with inquiries regarding this artwork or other works by Dennis Burton.

1Dennis Burton, Dennis Burton Retrospective, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, pg.’s 18 & 19.
2Barry Lord, Isaacs Seen, Justine M. Barnicke Gallery, Hart House, University of Toronto, pg. 70.