Famous Unrelated (as far as we know) Burnetts
Compiled by E. Sue Terhune
PATRICIA HILL BURNETT
Portrait Artist and Sculptor
Patricia Hill was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1920. Her parents separated when she was a baby, and until a teenager she grew up without many luxuries in a single-parent home onCollingwood Boulevard in Toledo. Later, a rich grandparent made their lives easier. When her mother married a well-to-do physician on the staff of Henry Ford Hospital, they moved to Detroit.
At the age of fourteen, she launched her artistic career by selling portraits for $25 in her home town. Patricia graduated in Fine Arts from Baltimore's Goucher College and continued with graduate study at the Instituto d' Allende in Mexico and Wayne State University. She has received many awards including; Best Portrait in Paris "American Figure Show", first prize in Boston "Figure Painting Show", first prize for sculpture in "Scarab Gold Medal Show" and portrait first prize in Venice, Italy "Life Painting Show". A renowned speaker and performer she has given over forty one-woman shows of painting and sculpture. In addition to these numerous achievements in the artistic field, Patricia was also named Miss Michigan and runner-up to Miss America (1942)and played the female lead in the unforgettable radio shows, The Green Hornet and The Lone Ranger. Patricia Hill Burnett was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1988.
Eventually, after a brief unsatisfactory marriage to a surgeon, she wed businessman Harry Burnett."Everyone thought I was blissfully happy. I had a nice husband, beautiful house, four children," she said. "A perfect Stepford wife, and then one day I realized how angry I was with the way society treated women." While her husband indulged her, he treated her in many respects like a child. She decided she'd had enough.
Patricia founded Michigan's chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1969 and served as president for two years. In 1971, she joined the national board and was later president of NOW International. She served as chair of the Michigan Women's Commission and was elected president of the National Association of Commissions to Women.
Represented by numerous galleries throughout the United States, London, Paris and Rome, she eventually achieved recognition as one of the world's finest portrait painters and sculptors. She painted more than 1,000 portraits, many of well known woman leaders. She painted Philippines President Corazon Aquino at the presidential palace in Manila. "I had just started to paint when shots rang out. Two men had broken into the palace to kill her. After they were captured, we went right on with the portrait." Other subjects included Margaret Thatcher, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Marlo Thomas, Max Fisher, JoyceCarol Oates, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Betty Ford and Indira Gandhi as well as John Engler, Governor of Michigan and Mayor Archer of Detroit. Her works hang in boardrooms, living rooms, civic buildings and palaces all over the world. She currently lives in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan where her home, studio and gallery are located.
[Personal Note: Shortly after I graduated from The University Of Michigan I began working at Decorative Interiors in Detroit. One beautiful Spring morning in 1963, the door to the store was flung open by a beautiful woman in a silk after-ski outfit who rushed in shouting for my boss, Morrie Fink. He came out from his office, gave her a hug, and asked her what he could do for her. She told him she wanted to stop by and show him these, as she reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out a handful of diamonds! I was amazed that anyone would put a diamond in a pocket loose, much less a handful of them. Mr. Fink introduced her to me as Patricia Hill Burnett who painted portraits of famous people. Later, after she left for the jewelers, he also told me that she had been Miss Michigan which didn't surprise me at all. From that time to the present, whenever I see her name, I remember those diamonds and the beauty of the woman who owned them.]