Robert Burnell has a natural passion for marine art, having grown up around the water in a family of watermen, and sailing his own boat since he was ten years old. He has sailed on every type of workboat on the Chesapeake Bay area including skipjacks, dead rises, buy boats and menhaden steamers, amassing a library of thousands of slides and photographs of workboats to which he constantly refers for accuracy of detail. He is equally conscientious of historical correctness, researching each vessel’s time, place and use.
Burnell began studies in architecture at Georgia Institute of Technology, studied printmaking at Old Dominion University, and participated in independent studies with John Pike, Edgar Whitney, Ed Betts, Don Stone, Rex Brandt, Jean Pilk and George Post. He was an instructor of watercolor painting at Tidewater Community College from 1972 to 2002, and has led summer workshops in watercolor and acrylic painting for over thirty years. In addition to being a member of A.S.M.A., he is also listed in Archibald’s Dictionary of Sea Painters. He has been honored with solo museum exhibitions at the Courthouse Galleries of the Portsmouth Museums and the Reedville Fisherman’s Museum, and group shows at the Rawls Museum Arts and Virginia Lifesaving Museum. In addition to museum shows, Burnell had annual solo exhibitions at the Atlantic Gallery in Washington D.C. during its operation. Other gallery exhibitions of his work have been offered by River Gallery in Chesapeake, V.A., Cudahy’s Gallery in Richmond, V.A., Turtle Creek Gallery in Dallas, T.X.., and Vincent Hester Gallery in Portsmouth, V.A.
His work is included in several museum and major corporate collections. Among them are the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, Old Ebbitt Grill (Clyde’s Restaurants, Inc.), Branch Bank & Trust, Inc., Towne Bank, Bank of America, Inc., Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Nature Conservancy of Virginia, Bons Secours Health Systems, Inc. and Leesylvania State Park.