Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), View from Our Front Porch, Salem, Ohio, May 23, 1917; watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper, 22 x 20 inches (Frame: 29 1/2 x 27 1/2 inches); Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of Dr. Edna M. Lindemann, 2004
A Dream World of Imagination: Charles E. Burchfield’s Golden Year
On View Friday, August 11–Sunday, November 26, 2017
“I have always believed 1917 to be the ‘golden year’ of my career,” wrote Charles E. Burchfield, reflecting on his life and fifty years as an artist. Indeed, 1917 was a year of great transformation. He was young, inspired, and prolific. His style changed dramatically as he let his uninhibited imagination flow and created truly unique ways to represent how he perceived the world. In his autobiographical sketch about 1917, he continued:
Forgotten were the frustrations and the longing for more freedom. The big city was not for me. I was back home in the town and countryside where I had grown up, which were now transformed by the magic of an awakened art outlook. Memories of my boyhood crowded in upon me to make that time also a dream world of the imagination.
What amazing works emerged in a flurry of activity! He developed a visual language of symbols for human emotions and sounds. They are his personally ascribed Conventions for Abstract Thoughts and his untitled, but recognizably synesthetic motifs known as “audio-cryptograms” that make visible distinctive songs of insects and birds, as well as mechanical sounds, like church bells and train whistles. Some sounds are pleasant, while others are frightful. Familiar neighborhood subjects in Salem, Ohio morphed into living, breathing buildings that suggest their residents’ personalities. More rural and wooded landscapes emerged as vibrant windows onto scenes evocative of the sights, sounds, scents, and physical presence of ever-changing moments. Some even have a cinematic quality in the way they suggest the passage of time and fickle changes in weather.
One hundred years after that inspired year of 1917, the exhibition, A Dream World of the Imagination: Charles E. Burchfield’s Golden Year, presents paintings, drawings, and ephemera that illustrate the ways in which this remarkable artist emerged as an inimitable American landscape painter. Burchfield Scholar Nancy Weekly has curated the exhibition, selecting works from the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s collection, including the Charles E. Burchfield Foundation Archives, as well as works on loan from anonymous private collections, the Blair Family, Chris and Debra Malof, the Parisi Family; the DC Moore Gallery and Peter Findlay Gallery in New York City, and private loans facilitated by Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts.
A Dream World of the Imagination: Charles E. Burchfield’s Golden Year is made possible with support from the Charles E. Burchfield Foundation; an anonymous foundation; the DC Moore Gallery and Director Edward DeLuca; the Peter Findlay Gallery; Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts; generous lenders, and Burchfield Penney Art Center members and visitors.