Emerson Burkhart Burkhart was born on his family farm in the small community of Kalida, in Northwest Ohio. Even at an early age Burkhart showed promising artistic talent. As a child he would take time to sketch elements of the farm that appealed to the love of nature that he would carry with him for the rest of his life. In 1923 Burkhart enrolled at Ohio Wesleyan University where he was influenced by his parents to pursue a law degree. The young scholar displayed disrespect for the faculty and lack of motivation in most courses, except for those that aligned with his desire to become an artist.
After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan in 1927 Burkhart continued his art studies for three years at The National Academy of Design and the Art Students League in New York City. Burkhart then returned to Columbus, Ohio where he married Mary Ann Martin and remained here for the rest of their lives. Emerson often portrayed his own neighborhood, Woodland Park, and the surrounding areas of the East side of Columbus in his paintings along with the interesting people who lived there. In addition to many portraits of family members, friends, and strangers, Emerson painted over 300 self portraits, altering his own appearance with a variety of settings and moods. He claimed that he liked to use himself as a model because, “I’m always cheap, and always here!” Emerson Burkhart was the most recognized artist working in Central Ohio in the mid-century, primarily a result of his close relationship with patrons and the Columbus media. He had a colorful personality that made an impression on everyone he met. He often exhibited at the annual Columbus Art League Show held at the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts (now the Columbus Museum of Art).