Burleigh spent his boyhood years in Little Compton. He married Sarah Drew Wilkinson in 1875 . With her encouragement, he became a full-time artist at age 25. Sarah's wealth enabled Burleigh to study painting in Paris with Paul Laurens in the first years of their marriage. Upon his return to Providence in the 1880's, Burleigh became an active member of the Providence Art Club. In addition to being a well-loved Providence artist, he was one of the most prominent civic leaders in the city. Burleigh's watercolors can be described as reminiscent of George Inness. Burleigh was known for perfection of line, exquisite balance, delicate and sensitive use of color and the overall poetic feeling of his painting. Burleigh earned national recognition when he won the Bronze medal at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, and the open prize from the Buffalo Society of Artists in 1913. By 1929 he was considered one of the country's leading watercolorists. Many prestigious art institutions chose to exhibit his works, solidifying his distinguished reputation.