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Charles Burchfield


American Scene artist

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 prominent institutions.

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 painters.

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 achievement.

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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