Burchfield, Charles

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Burchfield, Charles

Charles Burchfield (Charles Ephraim Burchfield), 1893–1967, American painter, b. Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio, studied Cleveland School of Art. Living at first in Ohio, then moving (1921) to upstate New York, he worked (1921–29) as a wallpaper designer. His paintings, predominantly in luminous watercolor or gouache, fall into three periods: From 1916 to the early 1920s, poetic, nearly abstract evocations of nature; from the early 1920s to the early 1940s, bold, somber, shadowed landscapes and urban scenes usually with no people present; and after 1943, a return to visionary expressions of nature, often revisions of works from his early period, now painted with a heightened sense of emotion. Although Burchfield is widely known for his moodily realistic depictions of crumbling Victorian mansions, false-front stores, railroad yards, and other relics of late-19th-century small-town America, his most successful works are usually considered to be his intense, boldly drawn, mystical, and highly colored portrayals of nature. Weather and sunlight effects are important in all his works, and along with his friend and contemporary Edward Hopper, he is widely considered to be associated with the nativist American Scene painting. Among his many works in museums are Setting Sun through the Catalpas (Cleveland Mus. of Art), October (Columbus Gall. of Fine Art, Ohio), Freight Cars under a Bridge (Detroit Inst. of Arts), and An April Mood (Whitney Mus., New York City).

See The Drawings of Charles Burchfield with text by the artist (1968); Charles Burchfield's Journals (ed. by J. B. Townsend, 1992); biography by J. Baur (1982); N. Weekly, Charles E. Burchfield: The Sacred Wood (1993); G. Davenport, Charles Burchfield's Seasons (2004); R. Gober, Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield (2009, Whitney Museum catalog); M. Hall and N. Maciejunes, Charles Burchfield 1920: The Architecture of Painting (2009).

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