Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), The White Tower (also known as Buildings and Street Scene), c. 1940-42; watercolor on paper mounted on board, 30 x 22 ½ inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of Peter C. Andrews in memory of Joan K. Andrews, 2017
The White Tower, also known as Buildings and Street Scene, could be called Burchfield’s love letter to the City of Buffalo. Through its inclusion in numerous exhibitions, it has become one of the public’s favorites. Remarkably, his perspective from the corner of Washington and East Mohawk Streets is virtually the same today, except for the automobiles. In a letter dated February 26, 1941, Burchfield wrote: “I am constantly finding new material in Buffalo. Last winter I made a painting of Washington St. in which the Electrical Bldg. figures prominently (one of the finest buildings in Buffalo or anywhere.)” The Niagara Mohawk Building, formerly the General Electric Tower, was built in 1912, having been inspired by the Electric Tower at the Pan-American Exposition held in Buffalo in 1901. It was the city’s second tallest building at the time. Thanks to the Charles E. Burchfield Foundation’s gift in 2006, their Archives contains a folder labeled “The White Tower” that includes 65 drawings, studies, and notes that relate to this painting. —NW
Note: The Charles E. Burchfield Foundation Archives (inventory number 523) contains a folder of preliminary drawings and studies labeled “The White Tower”
Charles E. Burchfield, Journals, Volume 43, February 28, 1941, p. 53:
Feb. 28 – (Friday) –
To Buffalo – Car to Justice for service.
Sketching around town — building tops on Main near Chippewa. Then to lunch at one-arm.
Then more notes of Elec. Bldg. & then to get car. Drive down to Louisiana Bridge to make studies — thence to Chippewa Market, after which to Booth Alley for studies. Bitterly cold – my hands, even with gloves grow numb. It was the hour when school lets out, and the whole neighborhood was swarming with shouting children — quarreling or playing games.