Ruth Payne Burgess studied at the Art Students League and traveled around Europe, painting in Germany and Italy. In 1885 she married John W. Burgess, founder of the school of political science at Columbia University. She painted still lifes, portraits, and landscapes of her hometown of Montpelier, the capital of Vermont. While living in Germany, she painted a portrait of Prince August Wilhelm, the second son of the kaiser. She was president of the Women’s Art Club in New York for five years, and donated more than a thousand dollars to support prizes and exhibitions given by the society.