Charles Ephraim Burchfield (April 9, 1893 - January 10, 1967), an
American watercolor painter, was born in Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio.Charles Ephraim
Burchfield (April 9, 1893 - January 10, 1967), an American watercolor painter,
was born in Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio.
Charles Ephraim Burchfield (April 9, 1893 - January 10, 1967), an American
watercolor painter, was born in Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio. He is known for his
visual commentaries on the effects of Industrialism on small town America as
well as for his paintings of nature. His paintings are in the collections of
many major museums in the USA and have been the subject of exhibitions at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art as well as other
Burchfield was raised by his mother in Salem, Ohio. Most of his early works were
done at this house, where he lived from the ages of five to twenty-eight, and
which has since been converted into a museum. He graduated from the Cleveland
Institute of Art in 1916. Burchfield moved to Buffalo, New York in 1921, where
he was employed as a designer at the Birge wallpaper company.
In 1925, Burchfield moved from Buffalo to the adjacent suburb of West Seneca,
New York, spending the rest of his life in the rural neighborhood of Gardenville.
According to Burchfield's friend and colleague Edward Hopper, "The work of
Charles Burchfield is most decidedly founded, not on art, but on life, and the
life that he knows and loves best."
His work is usually divided into three periods. The highly original early work,
from 1915 until 1919, combined an almost fauvist use of color with experiments
involving the depiction of the sounds of nature mixed with personal moods. He
developed a personal shorthand calligraphy for sounds (typically insects and
frogs) and abstractions depicting moods (frequently morbid). Cicada sounds are
depicted with zigzag strokes radiating outward, and flowers and houses seem to
have faces, not always pleasant.
In his middle period, from 1919 until 1943, he depicted small-town and
industrial scenes that put him vaguely in the category of the American Scene or
Regionalist movement, and these are the paintings most often seen in art history
texts. Though one critic commented that he was "merely Edward Hopper on a rainy
day," a 1936 Life Magazine article named him as one of America's ten greatest
In his late period, from 1943 until his death in 1967, he returned to the
preoccupations of the early work, developing large, intense renditions of nature
captured in swirling strokes, heightened colors and exaggerated forms. Art
historian and critic John Canaday predicted in a 1966 New York Times review that
the grandeur and power of these pictures would be Burchfield's enduring
The Charles Burchfield Center at Buffalo State College was dedicated in his
honor in 1966. It was re-named The Burchfield Art Center in 1983 with an
expanded mission to support a multi-arts focus. Between 1991 and 1994, the
museum received a series of gifts from Charles Rand Penney, Ph. D., of more than
1,300 works by Western New York artists. Included in that gift were 183 works by
Charles E. Burchfield. In honor of such a substantial donation the museum was
again re-named as The Burchfield-Penney Art Center.
Museums containing Burchfield works
Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo State College, Buffalo, New York. The
Burchfield-Penney Art Center holds the world's largest collection of Charles E.
Burchfield paintings, studio objects and Burchfield memorabilia.
Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
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