Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Design for a Tile, Mushrooms and Fungus (also known as Mushrooms and Indian Pipe), February 28, 1913; watercolor and pencil on paper, 7 x 4 15/16 inches; Charles E. Burchfield Foundation Archives, Gift of the Charles E. Burchfield Foundation, 2006
While more symmetrical than floral wallpaper patterns Burchfield would create later, this peculiarly stylized field of mushrooms is a bold, intensely-colored, refreshingly-lyrical interpretation of the subject. The design stands as early evidence of Burchfield’s intention to paint “not what he sees in nature, but what is there.” Perhaps though, this confidence, this sense of freedom to abstract, can only be gained by an artist first carefully studying what he sees in nature, as evidenced in the detailed and annotated drawings Burchfield made of mushrooms shortly before creating this design.
Five horizontal bands of repeated patterns of Indian Pipe and red-capped mushrooms (probably the fungus Summer Redcap (Boletus fraternus) growing out of green fronds or vines, set against red-violet background, similar to tile design in Inventory #565.76 in the folder, “ART SCHOOL POSTERS 1912-1915-16." The following journal entry references Burchfield's interest in this botanical subject.-- Nancy Weekly
Charles E. Burchfield, Journals, Vol. 28, April 28, 1916, p. 26
Today’s brilliant afternoon stirred me up — my various duties made me heartsick –
In the fog this morning I thought of Indian Pipe flowers on a hazy July wood-interior —