Ralph de Burgos, 72, a Washington artist and founder of an art school that bore his name, died of cancer Saturday at Capitol Hill Hospital.

Mr. de Burgos was born in Shanghai, China, where his father was in the import-export business. In 1916, after seven years in Japan, the family moved to New York City. Mr. de Burgos studied at the Naatonal Academy of Design, the Art Students League, the School of Industrial Arts, and the Arthur Schweider School of Modern Painting.

He came to Washington in 1946 after World War II service as a combat artist with the Coast Guard in the Pacific. He joined the faculty of the Washington Workshop. In the same year, he established the de Burgos School of Art in Georgetown.

In 1955, he opened another school in Falls Church. He continued the Georgetown school until 1972 and then continued the Falls Church studio until the time of his death.

He had numerous shows of his own work in the Washington area. His pictures were displayed in the Capitol and in various U.S. embassies. Among other works is a mural at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Washington. He restored and refinished the portraits of 32 presidents of Georgetown University.

Mr. de Burgos was a president of the Society of Washington Artists and of the American Art League.

Survivors include a daughter, Vicki Alicia Reese of Denton, Tex., by his marriage to the former Letitia Galloway, which ended in divorce; a brother, Harry, of Clayton, Mo.; two sisters, Victoria Phillips, of Bayside, N.Y., and Stella Benadava, of Miami, Fla., and one granddaughter.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Phillips Gallery, Washington.