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Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Song of the Peterbird, Study for Sun and Rocks, c. 1944-50; conté crayon on paper, 10 3/4 x 16 3/8 inches (Frame: 15 3/8 x 21 inches); Estate of Dr. Edna M. Lindemann, 2007

Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Song of the Peterbird, Study for Sun and Rocks, c. 1944-50; conté crayon on paper, 10 3/4 x 16 3/8 inches (Frame: 15 3/8 x 21 inches); Estate of Dr. Edna M. Lindemann, 2007

In 1939, Charles Burchfield described his attraction to the Tufted Titmouse, a bird whose “plaintive call ‘Peter—Peter’” filtered throughout the woods. “It vies with the cardinal for the honor of being the earliest harbinger of Spring. Something of a ventriloquist, he seems to send his notes from some remote mysterious land…alarmed at his surroundings, a feeling I have tried to express.” The Song of the Peterbird, painted on May 2, 1918 became the nucleus of his composite painting, Sun and Rocks (1918-50). He eventually erased the bird and converted its song into abstract patterns that echo in a vast canyon. This study, which also features a pair of flying crows, is just one of dozens in which ideas are percolating. His lifelong “thrill at the song of the Peterbird” inspired him “to capture on paper something of the haunting yearning feeling I experienced on hearing this bird’s call”—converting sound to image.

— Nancy Weekly