Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Sketch for The Four Seasons, ca. 1949-60; Conté crayon on paper, 11 x 8 ½ inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Charles E. Burchfield Foundation Archives, Gift of the Charles E. Burchfield Foundation, 2006
Charles E. Burchfield, Journals, May 12, 1949
Saturday, May 12, 2018
To the Country S. E. of Strykersville sketching—
The countryside has little of the freshness or charm that it usually has in Spring. It is too dry, and the heavy frost night before last, killed a lot of young leaves and blossoms.
A few miles beyond Java Village, an open woods attracted me and I stopped to look at it. Here in the woods there was little evidence of the dry weather and the freeze—All was a maze of yellow-green and emerald leaves, shot with golden yellow sunlight. Gradually I came to the decision to paint here. An idea I had last year of showing the transition of spring to summer came to me; using fading trilliums, & spring beauties & hepaticas gone to seed in the foreground, with a vista showing early summer. I set up my easel, then ate my lunch with great happiness and content. A cool north wind tempered the warm sunlight.
As I proceeded with my sketch, it occurred to me to make the extreme foreground & sides to represent very early spring. Shortly after I started I heard the highly individual (but scarcely charming) call of a scarlet tanager, — & I decided to introduce a motive of vivid red & black in the upper branches to denote the swift & elusive passage of this gorgeous bird.
Once, when I was growing tired, I lay down on a patch of dry dead leaves and let the sun flood me with heat & light. It was a delicious sensation.
--Charles E. Burchfield, May 12, 1949