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Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Poplar Trees, January 1916; watercolor and graphite on paper, 20 x 13 3/4 inches (Frame: 27 3/4 x 21 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches); Collection of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Gift in honor and in memory of John I. H. Baur, friend of Charles E. Burchfield and friend of Charles Rand Penney, 2000

Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Poplar Trees, January 1916; watercolor and graphite on paper, 20 x 13 3/4 inches (Frame: 27 3/4 x 21 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches); Collection of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Gift in honor and in memory of John I. H. Baur, friend of Charles E. Burchfield and friend of Charles Rand Penney, 2000

On September 10, 1916, Burchfield had a vision for a painting, “An idea—to allow design motifs in a scene to exist almost alone—as in the markings on tree bark—these designs only will be drawn, all other detail merely suggested.” In Poplar Trees, Burchfield’s vision of a scene defined by elements of design—shapes in patterns set against stylized, suggestive lines—is realized. The bold, dark, angular shapes command our attention, combining in patterns that do much less to describe the trees realistically, and much more to convey a distinct mood.

Content developed by Tullis Johnson, Brian Grunert and Kyle Morrisey for the exhibition Charles E. Burchfield: By Design