Left: Charles Burchfield (1893–1967), Morning Glories, 1915
Right: Charles Burchfield (1893–1967), Sun-Burst After Spring-Storm, 1917 (detail)
In the 1956 catalogue of Charles Burchfield’s traveling retrospective, John I. H. Baur, who later became director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, described that “There are three Burchfields in this exhibition.” Indeed there were three distinct phases of Burchfield’s unique career, each focused on his spiritual connection to nature. In his youth, and after graduating from the Cleveland School of Art, Burchfield produced watercolor fantasies of nature. In these expressionist pieces, the inanimate objects of the forest come alive and symbolic motifs of the artist’s own creation dance throughout the composition. In 1929, upon accepting a job at an established wallpaper company in Buffalo, New York, Burchfield entered his second phase. Influenced by his new urban and industrial setting, Burchfield created city scenes with a grittier feel than his earlier subjects. During this period of his life he was hailed as a regionalist, yet he denied the classification and felt that exploring and depicting nature had always been his destiny and that this period was a deviation from his “main stream.” Finally, in 1943, he returned to nature once again. Fusing his former fantastical depictions with his more mature style, he created romantic and spiritually inspired scenes. Often, he returned to earlier works, adding strips of paper to the edges to enlarge the piece and rework the composition. Burchfield’s art is in the permanent collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
To request a catalogue with works by Burchfield and other important American modernists visit questroyalfineart.com/publications.