Beyond the Notes:
Charles Ephraim Burchfield (1893-1967) was born and raised in Ohio (first in Ashtabula, then Salem). He graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and was employed as a wallpaper designer at H.M. Birge in Buffalo, New York. He eventually quit to pursue painting full-time, and lived thereafter in Gardenville (West Seneca), a suburb of Buffalo.
Burchfield's middle-period work (roughly the 1920s-early 1940s) focused on realist paintings depicting American small-town and industrial life, which brought him popularity and acclaim in his time. However, the visionary works of his early and late output may appear even more remarkable to us today: Burchfield's mystical, abstract nature imagery is arrestingly unique.
The photographs below show Burchfield's former home in Gardenville and the nearby park, now the Charles E. Burchfield Nature and Art Center. Much of his work was inspired by strolling through the woods in this area.
Video: Fear, Hope, and the Sublime in Burchfield's Paintings
The co-existing themes of fear and hope were central to the character of Burchfield's artwork. Many of his paintings have an ominous or negative quality, but ultimately his output as a whole may be seen to portray an optimistic outlook.
Video: Burchfield's Canvas Expansion Technique
Some of Charles Burchfield's later works were revisions and expansions on paintings that he had created decades earlier, including Autumnal Fantasy and Sun and Rocks, which were started when Burchfield was in his 20s and completed when he was in his 50s. He started with the kernel of an early painting and attached new sections of canvas to create a more expansive and more fully realized vision.
To learn about the influence of music in Burchfield's art, visit Burchfield and Synesthesia.