Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Black Iron, 1935; watercolor on paper, 28 1/8 x 40 inches; Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection, Gift of Hope Aldrich, in memory of her father, John D. Rockefeller III, 2013
I discovered them [the draw bridges] when returning to Seneca St. after a day’s work on "Three Boats in Winter" (1933) The time never seemed ripe to do them, however until this year. I made one trip in to look over the subject, and received a new thrill. An attack of lumbago delayed starting, but finally I felt equal to the task and went in. What a delight! what a joy it was ! The subject "over-powered me." I fell in love with it, and a great happiness came over me. (Early in the thinking about these bridges, the title "Black Iron" occurred to me as a suitable one.) It was difficult working, that first day, but I rejoiced in all the handicaps. For example the ground had not settled yet from the spring thaw, and where I stood it was all sand; engrossed in my work I did not know how treacherous it was until I went to step backward and could not move my feet at first; and I had great difficulty with-drawing them. One of the workers on the bridge seeing my predicament, went and got two box-ends for me to stand on. Then there was the wind from the south-west strong and gusty, with occasional spatters of rain; my easel was not well anchored, the legs sank in the sand loosening the guy-ropes etc. Nothing seemed to matter on this first day. By mid-afternoon the rain increased so much that I had to quit painting; but I had the main lines all blocked in, and the immense black counter-weights practically painted.
On another day a strong cold wind came out of the East; by afternoon a cold rain began to fall which soon changed to snow. The great flurries of snow-flakes as they passed the large black counter-weights were beautiful. Another time, the bridges lifted to allow a lake-freighter to go through, a fine sight.