Orphaned at age 11, Burton was raised by his aunt and uncle Clara and Jacob Groesbeck who financed his art education at Pratt. He graduated Pratt in 1907 and received additional training from Eugene C. Wayland in Hoosick Falls. Married in 1915 and taught art in public schools in New York. During WWI he put his artistic skills to use creating camouflage for navel vessels. The couple moved to Newfane, Vermont in 1927 and Burton painted many and exhibited several works.
In 1942 the Burtons moved to Newtown, Connecticut where they built a home and studio. Mary died there June 21, 1946 and Burton moved back to Vermont soon after. He constructed a modest home in Brookline and continued to paint and draw. he did a series of sketches of historic landmarks for Vermont History magazine in 1955-1957. In 1958 he moved to his final residence in Townsend, Vermont.
Burton was a member of the Southern Vermont Arts Center and a one man show of his work was held there in 1954. He was a friend of Aldro Hibbard, another Impressionist artist in the area. Burton was largely forgotten after his death until 1988 when a cache of paintings, drawings and notes were found in his former home in Townsend. At that point a large exhibition and sale was organized by Tom and Judy Platt in there Garden Gallery in Londonderry, Vermont. About 150 paintings and 100 drawings were sold at that time.