Annette Smith Burgess, 1895-1962

Above: Papillo-retinitis, with Papilledema, Toxic and Mechanical

All images courtesy of the New York Academy of Medicine Library, Image source: Brödel Archives

Annette Smith Burgess (1899-1962

Annette Smith Burgess (1899-1962

Photo: Davis RW., Journal of the Association of Medical Illustrators. 1963; 14:25-28., All images courtesy of the New York Academy of Medicine Library

by Gary Lees

Annette Smith Burgess was born on August 3, 1895, in Baltimore. From her earliest youth, her artistic talent was manifest. Her training in art began in 1917 at the Maryland Institute from which she graduated in 1920. Her next three years were spent working as a freelance artist. In 1923, she decided to pursue a career in medical illustration and became a student in the Department of Art as Applied to Medicine of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She studied under the famed medical artist and founding director of the school, Max Brödel. Under his rigorous tutelage, she studied for three years, perfecting her technique to become one of his greatest pupils. In 1926, she came to the Wilmer Institute at the behest of Dr. William H. Wilmer to become a full-time ophthalmic illustrator.

From 1926 until 1962, Annette Burgess painted and drew practically all of the illustrations that appeared in the various medical publications of the Wilmer Institute. She became the foremost painter of the ocular fundus and also a world-renowned ophthalmic artist. Among her notable works is the acclaimed Atlas Fundus Oculi by Dr. Wilmer, which features 100 vividly painted images of normal and pathological fundi. Annette Burgess’ work was marked by her accuracy of observation, her meticulous attention to detail, her absolute honesty in depicting pathological lesions, and her uncompromising refusal to include any lesion not actually present in the particular eye under examination. Her honesty, integrity, and loyalty were highly regarded by her colleagues, admirers, and friends. Annette served as the Wilmer Illustrator until her retirement in 1962.

Choroidoretinitis and Papilledema in Papilloretinal Arteriosclerosi

All images courtesy of the New York Academy of Medicine Library, Image source: Brödel Archives

Cyst of Iris and Cataract and Tuberculous Uveitis

All images courtesy of the New York Academy of Medicine Library, Image source: Brödel Archives