Charles Burchfield his early watercolours
Based on the Museum of Modern Art New York Exhibition
April 11 to April 26, 1930
One question always kept coming back to haunt American artist Charles Burchfield. “He had this constant question, ‘Am I doing something valid?’ ” said a former director of the Oklahoma Art Centre during an exhibition of Burchfield’s work.
Burchfield was pegged, to some degree, as a regionalist; however, he was working with his personal form of realism. He rejected the regionalist moniker; instead, he viewed himself as an American artist.
The term “regionalist,” a vague and detrimental term in the art world, implies that the artist’s work focuses mainly on a particular locale and is relevant only in that context, unlike other critically acclaimed artists whose work is recognised anywhere.
Unlike many artists, Burchfield kept a journal, which began in 1909 and ended in 1965. The journals span most of his painting career, primarily in Salem, Ohio, and Buffalo, N.Y. Burchfield, who was married and the father of five children, often had to abandon his painting to support his family. He died of a heart attack in 1967.
In his early work, frequently the same objects appear – small town, post-Civil War buildings – but they are not so much satirised as eagerly accepted as material for romantic composition. An essential similarity between his familiar later work and these early creations was that Burchfield was thoroughly interested in the subject matter at a time when interest in subject matter was discredited (MoMA catalogue notes).