Wonderland, c.1943, by Reginald Marsh on Flyer for Burchfield in Context Exhibition, Image courtesy of the Burchfield Penney Art Center Archives.
Burchfield in Context
On View Saturday, November 21, 1998–Sunday, January 31, 1999
Charles Burchfield was a significant American artist who chronicled the arduous lifestyle following World War I and who portrayed an increasingly romantic interpretation of his native landscape, achieving a transcendental, visionary view of nature. Burchfield’s choice to work in watercolor, however, often precluded his inclusion in exhibitions that concentrated solely on oil painting. As a result, he has often unfairly been overlooked in surveys of American art.
To challenge the skewed records of art history, Burchfield in Context presented Burchfield’s work with late-nineteenth-century landscape painting and early- to mid-twentieth-century paintings by American contemporaries, including colleagues who, like Burchfield, were represented at the Rehn Gallery in New York City. The exhibition explored similarities and differences in subject matter, stylistic virtuosity, and interpretive approach among painters during Burchfield’s professional career, which began in 1916 when he graduated from the Cleveland School of Art and continued until his death in 1967.
Examples of the landscape painting tradition from which Burchfield emerged included oils by Ralph Blakelock, John Henry Twachtman and Thomas Moran. Artists of the twentieth century whose works portrayed the American experience between the wars included Ralston Crawford and Reginald Marsh. Artists who interpreted landscape abstractly included Lawrence Calcagno, Marsden Hartley and John Marin. A section on artists who knew Burchfield in Western New York included Robert N. Blair, Virginia Cuthbert and Tony Sisti. Works were drawn from the collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Burchfield Penney Art Center, collectors Charles Rand Penney and Harriet and Mortimer Spiller, and other private collections.