Louie Burrell was a painter of portraits whose life and career were marked by a succession of struggles and setbacks, relieved by intermittent periods of fame. Her early promise was acknowledged by Hubert von Herkomer. who offered Burrell a three year scholarship to his art school in Bushey. Financial constraints prevented her from accepting his offer straight away, so she took up a teaching post in Truro during the late 1890s, in order to save enough to finance her studies. During this time she used local people as subjects for the portrait miniatures which would pave the way for prominent commissions later in her career. In 1902 her miniature 'The Red-Haired Girl' was accepted by the Royal Academy, and today hangs in the Victoria & Albert Museum.
In 1904 Burrell left Bushey for South Africa, where she married. During her pregnancy, her husband died suddenly. In order to provide for her young daughter, the artist sought work abroad, spending some years in Canada and the USA. Her social connections ensured that she was awarded commissions to paint portraits of figures prominent in royal and political circles, both in the UK and abroad. A second marriage in London failed after a few months, so she and her daughter Philippa set sail for India where her work received a mixed reception.
Returning to England, she began to suffer from poor health and gave up portrait commissions, though she continued to enjoy sketching expeditions to various locations including Cornwall. She was still painting until shortly before her death in 1971 at the age of 98.
Louie Burrell's spirit of adventure and determination to forge a career on her own terms mark her out as exceptional, in an era when women were crippled by social and domestic constraints. In recent years Philippa Burrell has done much to promote awareness of her mother's work.