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Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Spring Sunset in the Woods, March 4, 1917; watercolor and graphite on paper, 17 3/4 x 20 1/2 inches (sight); Burchfield Penney Art Center, Bequest of Norman E. Mack, II, 2012

Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Spring Sunset in the Woods, March 4, 1917; watercolor and graphite on paper, 17 3/4 x 20 1/2 inches (sight); Burchfield Penney Art Center, Bequest of Norman E. Mack, II, 2012

Time lapses from the uppermost sunlit clouds floating in an azure sky to fading layers of subdued tones. Below them, a blazing salmon sunset obliterates tree trunks. Behind an ancient mammoth tree covered with heavily textured bark, a wraithlike tree sprite emerges dancing, its summoning arms spread wide. Three days after painting this scene, Burchfield wrote: “In the rainy dusk as I came home I composed rare weirdly discordant music for a stage scene which showed the gradual dusk in a fearful woods — At the climax a slim maiden glided out, clad in simple white; the music was a quaint tinkle-tinkle.” Similarly, Finnish composer Jean Sibelius held similar visions, as reported by his close friend Walter von Konow: “A beautiful sunset would evoke other moods of his imagination. We would sit for hours and gaze in silent wonder at the setting sun and the clouds shining in purple and gold—a whole fairylike world, full of magic and beauty, revealed itself.”

Content by Nancy Weekly