Burchfield, Charles

Burchfield, Charles

(Charles Ephraim Burchfield), 1893–1967, American painter, b. Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio, studied Cleveland School of Art. Living at first in Ohio, then moving (1921) to upstate New York, he worked (1921–29) as a wallpaper designer. His paintings, predominantly in luminous watercolor or gouache, fall into three periods: From 1916 to the early 1920s, poetic, nearly abstract evocations of nature; from the early 1920s to the early 1940s, bold, somber, shadowed landscapes and urban scenes usually with no people present; and after 1943, a return to visionary expressions of nature, often revisions of works from his early period, now painted with a heightened sense of emotion. Although Burchfield is widely known for his moodily realistic depictions of crumbling Victorian mansions, false-front stores, railroad yards, and other relics of late-19th-century small-town America, his most successful works are usually considered to be his intense, boldly drawn, mystical, and highly colored portrayals of nature. Weather and sunlight effects are important in all his works, and along with his friend and contemporary Edward HopperHopper, Edward,
1882–1967, American painter and engraver, b. Nyack, N.Y., studied in New York City with Robert Henri and other Ashcan School painters. Hopper lived in France for a year but was little influenced by the artistic currents there.
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, he is widely considered to be associated with the nativist American Scene painting. Among his many works in museums are Setting Sun through the Catalpas (Cleveland Mus. of Art), October (Columbus Gall. of Fine Art, Ohio), Freight Cars under a Bridge (Detroit Inst. of Arts), and An April Mood (Whitney Mus., New York City).


See The Drawings of Charles Burchfield with text by the artist (1968); Charles Burchfield's Journals (ed. by J. B. Townsend, 1992); biography by J. Baur (1982); N. Weekly, Charles E. Burchfield: The Sacred Wood (1993); G. Davenport, Charles Burchfield's Seasons (2004); R. Gober, Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield (2009, Whitney Museum catalog); M. Hall and N. Maciejunes, Charles Burchfield 1920: The Architecture of Painting (2009).

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Burchfield, Charles (Ephraim)

(1893–1967) painter; born in Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio. Although he attended Cleveland School of Art and briefly lived in New York City (1916), he spent most of his life in small towns in Ohio and upstate New York, and it was not until about 1929 that he could escape the factory jobs to devote himself to art. Known primarily for his watercolors, his works drawn from nature, such as February Thaw (1920), often conveyed an almost sinister mood, while his vision of urban America, as in Black Iron (1935), seem imbued with a sense of melancholy. His paintings of railroads and mines, commissioned by Fortune magazine in the late 1930s, brought his work to a wider public.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.