Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), December Moonrise, 1959; watercolor on paper, 30 x 36 inches; The Phillips Collection, Gift of B. J. and Carol Cutler, 2009
Charles E. Burchfield, letter to Dr. & Mrs. Theodor W. Braasch, December 30, 1959
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Yes, I did get the rising of Sirius and Orion painted – As I suspected it would… it turned out differently than I had planned. I added to the idea the moon rising (just the very tip of it shows over the hill) – I did some astronomical juggling to get in all I wanted – above & to the left of the moon is “Canis Minor” to the right and the most prominent “Orion” with Sirius below – all these have been put closer together than they would normally be… An astronomer would no doubt be shocked. In the foreground is a field with weeds, coated with ice and frost that catch the light of the stars and the moon – the whole handled in a fantasy manner.
I must have been prophetic with my ice-coated weeds, for now we are in such a phenomenon: The Buffalo papers said this is the “worst” ice-storm we had had in 30 years – I’ve been here for 37 years and I never saw anything like it – in my whole life either. The effects are incredibly beautiful and impossible to describe. I went out once or twice to make studies from the car, but I soon felt I was going out of my mind, and I gave up and decided it was just to be enjoyed, like a sunset, or the Grand Canyon etc – Probably never again will we see such ravishing beauty.
The other side of the story is that [thousands] of homes have been without electricity for varying periods (some still are) – We were fairly lucky, we were only without power for 34 hours – and we discovered how idiotic it is to depend on one source of heat – Buffalo lost some of her best plants… Fortunately the studio furnace does not require electricity so it was good and warm all through. We spent some time there.
But still, I know that the end of 1959 is going to be remembered by us, as a period of a miraculous phenomenon, of over-powering beauty.
Charles Burchfield, December 30, 1959