Charles Burchfield his early watercolours

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.

Summer Rain by Charles Burchfield (1917)
Summer Rain by Charles Burchfield (1917)

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).

The City by Charles Burchfield (1916)
The City by Charles Burchfield (1916)
Cat-Tails (1916) by Charles Burchfield
Cat-Tails (1916) by Charles Burchfield
Rogues Gallery (1916) by Charles Burchfield
Rogues Gallery (1916) by Charles Burchfield
Drifting Dandelion Seeds by Charles Burchfield
Drifting Dandelion Seeds by Charles Burchfield
Decorative Landscape: Shadow (1916) by Charles Burchfield
Decorative Landscape: Shadow (1916) by Charles Burchfield
Decorative Landscape: Hot Morning Sunlight (1916) by Charles Burchfield
Decorative Landscape: Hot Morning Sunlight (1916) by Charles Burchfield
Portrait Study - In a Doorway (1917) by Charles Burchfield
Portrait Study – In a Doorway (1917) by Charles Burchfield
A Fallen Tree (1917) by Charles Burchfield
A Fallen Tree (1917) by Charles Burchfield
Wheat field and tower (1917) by Charles Burchfield
Wheatfield and tower (1917) by Charles Burchfield
Sunday morning at eleven o'clock
Sunday morning at eleven o’clock
The August North (A memory of childhood) by Charles Burchfield
The August North (A memory of childhood) by Charles Burchfield
The Insect Chorus (1917) by Charles Burchfield
The Insect Chorus (1917) by Charles Burchfield.
Church Bells Ringing - Rainy Winter Night (1917) by Charles Burchfield
Church Bells Ringing – Rainy Winter Night (1917) by Charles Burchfield.
The song of the Katydids on an August Morning (1917) by Charles Burchfield
The song of the Katydids on an August Morning (1917) by Charles Burchfield
Childhood's Garden (1917) by Charles Burchfield
Childhood’s Garden (1917) by Charles Burchfield
The Window by the Alley (1917) by Charles Burchfield
The Window by the Alley (1917) by Charles Burchfield
Beech Trees (1917) by Charles Burchfield
Beech Trees (1917) by Charles Burchfield
The Southeast Snowstorm (1917) by Charles Burchfield
The Southeast Snowstorm (1917) by Charles Burchfield
The Barn (1917) by Charles Burchfield
The Barn (1917) by Charles Burchfield
The East Wind (1918) by Charles Burchfield
The Barn (1917) by Charles Burchfield
Garden of Memories by Charles Burchfield
Garden of Memories by Charles Burchfield.
The Night Wind (1918) by Charles Burchfield
The Night Wind (1918) by Charles Burchfield
The First Hepaticas 1918) by Charles Burchfield
The First Hepaticas 1918) by Charles Burchfield.

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