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Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Study for Church Bells Ringing, Rainy Winter Night, 1917; watercolor and pencil on paper, 10 7/8 x 8 15/16 in.; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Charles E. Burchfield Foundation Archives, Gift of the Charles E. Burchfield Foundation, 2006

Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Study for Church Bells Ringing, Rainy Winter Night, 1917; watercolor and pencil on paper, 10 7/8 x 8 15/16 in.; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Charles E. Burchfield Foundation Archives, Gift of the Charles E. Burchfield Foundation, 2006

Church Bells Ringing, Rainy Winter Night contains many Conventions for Abstract Thoughts that Burchfield created between February and December 1917.  Swirls of Fear appear as the clanging church bell and they dominate the stormy sky. Noting “The Hawk-like aspect of Baptist Church,” Burchfield also animated the steeple to look like a ferocious bird. He described his frightening memory:

It was an attempt to express a childhood emotion—a rainy winter night—the church bell is ringing and it terrifies me (the child) — the bell ringing motive reaches out and saturates the rainy sky—the roofs of the houses dripping with rain are influenced; the child attempts to be comforted by the thoughts of candle lights and Christmas trees, but the fear of the black, rainy night is overpowering.

--Content by Nancy Weekly for the exhibition, "A Dream World of Imagination: Charles E. Burchfield's Golden Year"