Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Summer Solstice (In Memory of the American Chestnut Tree), 1961-66; watercolor on paper, 54 x 60 inches; Image from the Burchfield Penney Art Center Archives
Charles E. Burchfield, Journals, June 21, 1952
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Summer arrived this morning about 5:13 ½ or some such outlandish time – it seemed most appropriate to go out sketching – Besides, there was to be a huge wedding reception next door & I know work in the studio would be impossible.
A “coolish” cloudy day with only infrequent periods of warm sunlight breaking thru.
I headed towards the spot where several years ago (1948, I think) I painted “Wind–Blown Hay” – and spent such a delightful day – It is reached by Route 78 to the Y in the road just beyond Java Village, taking the right hand fork, to a “Corners” a few miles beyond, & then turning East. At the “Y” I took note of beautiful Elms near the road and thought they would be suitable for the Mourning–Dove picture.
The “spot” I was in search of eluded me – and the whole road proved uninteresting, showing that the former occasion was all a state of mind. I drove on to the junction of 98 & 78, and came around again to the Y, and decided to spend the day here and do the Mourning–dove–idea, and the cloudy day made conditions ideal.
I got out my notes and strove to fit them into the scene before me, but for a time it seemed hopeless then all at once, I saw I had to re–cast the composition, and I set up my easel and had everything in readiness – then I ate my lunch, after which I set to work.
A delightful day – with perfect lighting – Birds abounded – thrushes, a robin (who at one point in his song – much as I disparage the fancied “words” in bird–songs, nevertheless seemed to say again and again “pretty bird”) blue–birds, wood–thrush, oriole, and once, as if especially for me, a mourning–dove.
While there was considerable traffic on the road, no one stopped to pester me, until when I fortunately was almost done, a young farmer stopped to look – “It’s very nice” he said “but if you want to get some really nice scenery, you should go up into the gulf by Java Village” – – – – – etc. & went on – Later he returned, as well as the farmer who owned the farm and his son – The father “you never saw that bird in the tree” – No, I said but I heard him and put it in from my imagination, & that satisfied him. They liked the painting & soon went on.
Gathered a few wild strawberries for Bertha – then went on–to a point further south where I had noticed some tall pink–flowers (resembling the “pin–cushion flowers” –) It seemed a nice place to eat my lunch so I stayed here.
A beautiful evening – the clouds had thickened, and at times a few rain–drops – pale light breaking thru the clouds far in the north–west – Right in front of me a field of rich green timothy hay, with a soft, cool light from the Zenith falling on it, like a benediction.
First I picked a bouquet of pink flowers for Bertha, then dug up a plant, and several yellow myrtle for her garden. – Then I tuned in on the “Summer Symphony” and ate lunch.
Then rather emotionally exhausted, I started homeward, with the concert still on. When it finished the (n.d.) of B round–table – subject – what constitutes a great president – First the moderator asked them (the three of them) what they considered our greatest presidents – all three chose Washington as No. 1 & one chose John Adam – & Grover Cleveland (!) another Franklin Roosevelt & one I cannot remember, and third Thomas Jefferson & Teddy Roosevelt – (my own choice would be I think Washington, Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt)
Eventually the moderator “out of curiosity” asked why none of them chose Lincoln – “Well,” one pompously began – “I would hardly call Lincoln a great President, because he never took advice from his cabinet or any of his associates – if he had the civil war could have been averted” – etc. – & I shut off the radio in disgust.
Home & found Bertha exhausted with her day’s work – She liked the sketch.
Charles E. Burchfield, June 21, 1952