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Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Spring Rain in the Woods, 1950; Watercolor on paper, 30 x 40 inches; Private Collection

Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Spring Rain in the Woods, 1950; Watercolor on paper, 30 x 40 inches; Private Collection

Venturing into “the ‘Big Woods’ east of Gowanda,” on April 4, 1950, Burchfield changed his mind about what to paint because of the weather’s rapid transformation.

I had planned to do a song of the song-sparrow coming into a woods, but as the sky became over-cast and a strong wind began its roaring in the tree tops, I changed and decided to try to paint the roar of the wind in the woods. A fine afternoon― At times the wind ceased altogether and a great calm settled over the woods; then in a distant part a soft roaring would commence and grow louder & louder & soon all the trees about me would be clashing & swaying majestically back & forth like inverted pendulums. Soon it began to rain and I had to get the big umbrella. As the day wore on my ideas changed & I began to improvise on other themes, such as wind-blown leaves dancing over the floor of the woods, and big rain-drops hitting them with a great clatter. Bits of sunlight entering into “windows” of the woods, great hemlocks bending before the force of the wind, the branches overhead clashing in anger at the menacing clouds. Will I ever truly be able to express the elemental power & beauty of God’s woods?

 Jagged branches suggest lightning, while the yellow-lined openings suggest “flashes of sunlight” yet to come as the windy storm begins to abate.

—Nancy Weekly