Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), November Storm, 1950; watercolor on paper, 26 x 40 inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sherlock A. Herrick, Jr., 2001
November Storm portrays the turbulent change of seasons from autumn to winter. A few colorful leaves remain on the ground, but young trees are bent by the strong icy wind. A sturdy old tree rebuffs the gale that whips a massive white cloud into a bird form, or winged spirit, in the distant blackening sky. Using agitated brushwork, simplified masses of form, quivering lines, and a steel gray tone to portray the cold temperature, Burchfield shares his personal experience and arouses tactile, visual, and even auditory, senses through his image.
On November 17, 1950, when this was likely painted, Burchfield wrote in his journal that it was “a raw stormy day, and I felt happy.” Physically, painting had been difficult because his easel struggled against the wind and his watercolors partially froze on the paper during snow squalls; but he said that he “enjoyed fighting the ‘elements’.” Years later, the artist wrote to his friend, Dr. Theodor Braasch, declaring, “’November Storm’ is one of my favorites.” He felt it embodied his vacillation between fantasy and realism through “the trend to simplification and reduction of natural forces to abstract (small capital) terms….” It exemplifies Burchfield’s mature stylistic and metaphoric approach to painting and speaks with clarity of a universally shared perception of oncoming winter. — Nancy Weekly