Burke, Augustus Nicholas (c.1838–1891), painter, was born at Waterslade, Knocknagur, Co. Galway, the sixth son of William Burke, a catholic gentleman and landowner, and Fanny Xaveria Burke (née Tucker) of Brook Lodge, Sussex. Educated at a private catholic school in England, he studied art in London and began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1863. He continued as a regular exhibitor at the RA until his death. In 1869 he returned to Ireland and, with his sister and fellow artist Dorothy Burke, took up residence in Dublin, where he gained a reputation as a skilled landscape and subject painter; he also produced several portraits. In 1870 he began his association with the RHA as a frequent exhibitor; he was elected ARHA in July 1871 and RHA in August of the same year. Following a visit to Belgium in the 1860s, he travelled to the Netherlands at some point between 1870 and 1872, and painted several Dutch scenes which were later exhibited in Dublin. Of greater significance was the period he spent at Pont Aven in Brittany, c.1875–6, where he painted landscapes and peasant subjects. Fifteen of his Breton scenes were exhibited at the RHA (1876–8). He was among the earliest group of Irish artists to work there, and on his appointment as professor of painting at the RHA (1879–82) it seems likely that he encouraged the next generation of Irish student artists, among them Walter Osborne (qv) and Joseph Kavanagh (qv), to train in France.
The assassination by Irish nationalists of his brother Thomas Henry Burke (qv), under-secretary for Ireland, in May 1882 was a devastating blow, and led to Burke's abrupt departure from Ireland in 1883. He settled in London, where he probably painted his best-known work, ‘The Connemara girl’, which reflects the contemporary fashion for a romanticised view of Irish peasant life. He also visited and painted in several picturesque locations in England and Wales. Poor health forced him to move to Italy in 1889, from where he contributed paintings of Venice, Perugia, and Florence to RHA exhibitions. His sister Dorothy, who travelled with him, also submitted views of Italy to the academy. He died 28 December 1891 at his home in via la Marmora, Florence, and was buried in the city's English cemetery. A charcoal sketch of Burke (1873) by Alfred Grey is in the NGI; he was also painted by Osborne.