Friday, February 03, 2023

George Burroughs Torrey, City Artist Painted European Royalty and American Presidents


The artist George Brroughs Torrey, was born in New York City in 1863. He later lived on Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport, exhibited in Paris, and became known for his portraits of prominent Bridgeporters such as P.T Barnum and Nathaniel Wheeler.

Torrey was commissioned to paint portraits of famous people throughout the world, including European royalty and American presidents.

In 1893 Torrey moved his studio to the Waldorf Astoria in New York. His second wife was from Hawaii, and he maintained a home in Honolulu, where he died in 1942. He is buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport.

A large oval painting of an elderly woman, dressed in the fashions of the late 19th century, hangs in the History Center at the Bridgeport Public Library.

The woman, Julia Ann Tomlinson Bishop, was painted by George Burroughs Torrey with painstaking care, detailing the shimmering material of her gown.

Julia was the wife of William Darius Bishop, president of the New Haven Railroad, which was built by his father, railroad pioneer Alfred. The family’s considerable fortune was shared by Julia’s and William’s six children; Mary, Alfred, Russell, William, Darius Jr., Henry and Nathaniel.

The estate of Torrey presented several paintings to the Bridgeport Public Library. His mother, Harriet Burroughs Torrey, was a cousin to Catherine Burroughs Pettingill, who donated the original library building to the city.

Many of Torrey’s paintings are on display in the library’s Fine Arts Room, including a self-portrait, a painting of Nathaniel Wheeler and two beautiful paintings of members of his family in sailboats.

The paintings of the presidents are in storage, as is the painting of his mother, Harriet Burroughs Torrey, dressed in dark mourning clothes.

Mary Witkowski
Mary K. Witkowski is the former Bridgeport City Historian and the Department Head of the Bridgeport History Center, Emeritus. She is the author of Bridgeport at Work, and the co-author with Bruce Williams of Bridgeport on the Sound. Mary has had a newspaper column in the Bridgeport News, a blog for the Connecticut Post, and a weekly spot on WICC. She continues to be involved in many community based activities and initiatives on local history and historic preservation.