Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Country Life and the Hunt, c.1928; silk screened wallpaper, 56 3/4 x 20 1/2 inches; Gift of M.H. Birge and Sons Company, 1973
Country Life and the Hunt: Burchfield and Wallpaper Design
On View Saturday, April 6–Sunday, October 6, 2002
An extremely rare set of panels from Charles E. Burchfield’s scenic wallpaper, Country Life and the Hunt, was exhibited for the first time since its acquisition and restoration. Burchfield designed the panoramic landscape wallpaper around 1924 for the M. H. Birge & Sons Company in Buffalo. When placed side by side, the twelve panels measure approximately 6 feet high by 32 feet long, providing a narrative scene of hounds and equestrian hunters in pursuit of an elusive fox along a path through woods and hilly ground near a village. These large panels form the only complete example of this wallpaper known to exist. It was purchased in 1999 with a generous donation from Gail and John Greenberger.
Paper conservator Patricia D. Hamm conducted a thorough, complex restoration of the wallpaper panels. Ms. Hamm, who has worked with the Burchfield Penney Art Center since 1987, is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works and the leading authority on Burchfield’s materials and techniques. Painting conservator James F. Hamm worked with her in mounting the wallpaper on special support panels to enable exhibition. The conservation project was made possible by funds from the Edith and Frances Mulhall Achilles Memorial Fund, Gail and John Greenberger, and the Conservation Treatment Regrant Program administered by the Lower Hudson Conference, in association with the Museum Program of the New York State Council on the Arts.
Burchfield-designed wallpapers from the collection contextualized Country Life and the Hunt and illustrated how Burchfield attempted to deviate from traditional wallpaper motifs. In his most characteristic works, he designed more naturalistic wildflower and tree designs and experimented with stylish abstraction. The exhibition was made possible by a grant from the Charles E. Burchfield Foundation. Programs included:
Lecture: May 19. Conservators Patricia D. Hamm and James F. Hamm discussed the intensive, two-year project to restore Burchfield’s wallpaper panels that had been stripped from the walls where they originally were hung.
Panel Discussion: June 23. Director Emerita Edna M. Lindemann and Burchfield wallpaper authors Ann Raszmann Brown and Robert M. Slammon discussed Burchfield’s years at the M.H. Birge & Sons wallpaper company. Arlette Klaric, Ph.D. and lecturer in the design department of Buffalo State College, moderated.