New York, Landscape-Structure and Mod-Botanic Painting

Charles E. Burchfield was born in Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio on April 9, 1893.  He was a shy and somewhat lonely youngster and he spent long hours exploring the nearby woods.  He was known to paint in the pouring rain; his perseverance paid off in some of the most unusual nature paintings in American art.  Toward the end of high school he started writing in a journal, which he kept up regularly for the next fifty years.  By the time he died, the journal filled seventy-two volumes.    After graduating from high school, Burchfield studied at the Cleveland School of Art. There, it was not the modernistic battles raging in Paris or at New York’s Armory Show that influenced him, but Chinese scrolls and Japanese prints. 

Burchfield had lived from 1898 to 1921 in Salem, Ohio.  At the age of twenty-four he experienced what he would later call his “golden year.” It was 1917, during which he produced watercolors at a rate of two or three a week in an explosion of talent.   

Burchfield’s Salem period came to an end in 1921 when, at age twenty-eight, he moved to Buffalo, New York to take a job designing wallpaper for M.H. Birge and Sons.  He married Bertha Kenreich; they raised four girls and a boy.  The family lived in a modest house in Gardenville, directly east of Buffalo.  In a deep back lot was a garden and a small studio where Burchfield worked.  After eight years, he left Birge to devote all his time to making his work larger, grander and more realistic.  His struggle to express his intense response to nature with his personal symbolic vocabulary continued until his death in 1967. 

For more information about Charles Burchfield and to see samples of his work visit the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, New York website at URL: http://www.yournewburchfieldpenney.com.

Source:  Henry Adams in Smithsonian Magazine Time magazine, June 15, 1970 and
The Last Pantheist by Bonnie Barrett Stretch in ARTnews, May 1984.

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