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Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Bluebird and Cottonwoods, 1917; watercolor, gouache and graphite on joined paper mounted on board, 23 5/8 x 19 1/2 inches; The Malof Family

Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Bluebird and Cottonwoods, 1917; watercolor, gouache and graphite on joined paper mounted on board, 23 5/8 x 19 1/2 inches; The Malof Family

Bluebird and Cottonwood, painted by Burchfield in 1917, conveys a scene dominated by linear elements that seem to come to life through these designed patterns.--Content developed by Tullis Johnson, Brian Grunert and Kyle Morrisey for the exhibition Charles E. Burchfield: By Design

Bluebirds have a vibrant azure color on their upper body and wings, red breast, white belly, and warbling song, making them welcome symbols of spring when they return north. These may be reasons why Burchfield considered them a symbol of hopefulness. They even appeared in his dreams, as he noted on March 27, 1917, writing: “I was dreaming I had been forsaken by all my beloved and sat by a stream in the woods in misery, when a bluebird fluttered up strangely tame & sat on my knee —” This painting became the inspiration for Burchfield's first wallpaper design, The Birches, in 1921.

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