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Entering Burchfield's World

Presented by the Brigitte Spiro Family

On View Friday, November 21, 2008–Sunday, March 1, 2009

Anthony J. Sisti Gallery    John R. Oishei Foundation Gallery   

Charles Ephraim Burchfield was born April 9, 1893 in Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio.  Five years later, following the death of his father, his family moved to Salem, Ohio.  He graduated from high school as class valedictorian in 1911, and graduated from the Cleveland School of Art in 1916.  His early works were imaginative, stylized landscapes and rural scenes that often incorporated a personal language of symbols.

Burchfield moved to Buffalo, New York in 1921 to work for the M.H. Birge & Sons Company, one of the nation's most prominent and artistic wallpaper companies.  He married Bertha Kenreich in 1922 and they raised five children.  Fascinated by Buffalo's buildings, harbor, rail yards, and surrounding countryside, Burchfield turned to a more realistic style.  In 1929, encouraged by the Frank K. M. Rehn Galleries in New York City, he resigned his job as a designer to paint full-time.  From this period, his works show optimism and an appreciation for American life.  In the 1940s, Burchfield's romanticism led him to return to ideas begun in early fantasy scenes that he often expanded into transcendental landscapes with compelling spiritual integrity.  He followed this artistic vision until the end of his life, creating some of his greatest, most mystical works.

Burchfield gained acclaim through inclusion in prestigious national exhibitions and he received numerous awards.  His artistic achievement was honored by the inauguration of the “Charles Burchfield Center” in Rockwell Hall at the “State University College at Buffalo” on December 9, 1966.  Although he cut the threshold ribbon and celebrated the opening of the center, he unfortunately died a month later on January 11, 1967.  The museum, now called the Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College, proudly holds the world's largest collection of his work.

Entering Burchfield’s World features selections from the Burchfield Collection that provide a synopsis of his creative development, demonstrating how he converted his personal rapport with nature into imagery that can be universally appreciated.  The exhibition is presented with support from Brigitte Spiro and Family.

Curator: Nancy Weekly, Head of Collections and the Charles Cary Rumsey Curator