Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Song of the Telegraph, 1917-1952; watercolor on paper, 34 x 53 inches; Collection of William and Rose-Marie Shanahan
Apr. 9 – (Fri.)
Most of day on “Song of the Telegraphs” – First east on Clinton St to get studies of telegraph poles with knot-holes in them – A dark cloudy day with strong wind of north, and occasional light snow-flurries. Then back to studio.
Most of the day went into the designing of the picture. Altho I had “laid out” the design motifs from a preconceived idea, as usual I found the actual carrying out necessitated the complete [rethinking?] or [abandoning?] of such motifs + new ones adopted. A new motif that gave me great pleasure and which just seemed to grow of its own accord, was a vast cloud, in the form of a cawing crow, soaring above the woods to the left, and heading due North. It symbolized for me the old yearning of boyhood for the Northlands, beyond the Covered Bridge, evoked by the elemental calls of crows. The part most likely to give trouble will be the telegraph line itself; it is easy to invent a multitude of symbols to represent the “humming” of a telegraph pole, but just because it is easy – therein lies the danger of overdoing it.
Another series of motifs that gave me pleasure were white wind motifs, introduced in the sky, + above the woods, and running like white fire over the dead bleached out grass in the foreground, licking at the ancient grey rail fence running parallel to the road.
Evening – the birthday dinner – delicious – breaded veal, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, beats, cucumber salad, carrot salad, strawberry pie with [unintelligible].
Mart + Hank gave me an Indian blanket for my studio bench and a card M had made – a delightful little spring rain scene. Art gave me a grey tie (with peacock design) + B in addition to the records, a box of salted nuts.
Evening B+I played the records – Both remarkable music. Sally calls to wish me birthday greetings.
Charles Burchfield, Journals, April 9, 1948