Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), July Drought Sun, 1949-60; watercolor on paper, 45 x 54 inches; Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Charles E. Burchfield, Journals, July 11, 1952
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Out painting – warm and sunny, less wind. With eastern Genesee road ultimately in mind, I drove south via Boston & Vaughn St Rd – to east of Springville to make studies of maple trunks for the “Drought Sun” picture – Pleasant in the morning shadows of the maples.
East on 39, to find the spot I painted at in June 1950 but could not identify it – Piqued, I turned back when I got to Sardinia and looked carefully all the way, but could not find it – So east on Genesee –
Shortly after I started this road, I thought a group of trees on a grass hillside attractive so stopped to examine it, already forming in my mind was the desire to do a “Glory to God” mood of a single tree. While a pleasant spot, the place did not quite “click” and I went on.
At the point where Route 98 uses the Genesee Road for a short space – I again stopped by a small stream where there were many willow trees. By this time, I had decided a willow tree was to be the tree. I ate my lunch here – listening to the preliminary business at the Republican Convention. After eating, I walked around a bit trying to find the right subject, but could not – so, on east –
At the point east of 78, where the Genesee road is reduced to a mere “trickle” over a narrow strong lane, I found a deserted house in a depression in the earth. As “Posted” signs were all over the place, I drove back to the next house & inquired if they owned it. The young woman who answered my knock told me who owned the place, but said she was sure he would not mind my sketching there. So back to the house – I thought perhaps it would be suitable for a milkweed & old clapboards picture – but it did not seem to be very interesting – So on past 98 & came to a deep “dip” in the road, where five or six years ago I stood & threw stones at bottles to relive a “state of mind.”
A fine spot, which always seems to us Americans as the one logical spot to throw trash. Nevertheless I quickly decided this was the spot to stay, and without difficulty decided on a solitary willow tree as my subject –
Parked in the shadow of a huge willow tree – on this side there were many, – a little vale of deep bush grass & trees, thru which a clear stream flowed. A herd of cattle were seeking shade here – one had a bell, whose nostalgic tinkling seemed to cool the air – reminiscent of boyhood days in Ohio.
Unable to resist – I tuned in on the convention – voting already in progress – Florida answering the roll call. As one of the delegate demanded a roll call of his state – I took the time to set up my easel. Then back to the radio. When another state – also had to go thru a manly man roll call, I took time to lay out my composition.
It is curious to me, that I was able to carry on these two activities at once, without having the political convention spoil the mood of my painting. I felt I ought not listen, but could not resist. I got back to the radio just a moment too late to hear the moment when Minnesota threw all their votes to Eisenhower (who was 9 short of a majority on the first ballot) thus giving him the nomination.
So back to work – A pleasant time in spite of the usual doubts & difficulties – it was one of those sketches in which the subconscious seemed to be in complete control – and I did unpremeditated things which later turned out to be exactly right.
Finished by about 4:30 – Eastward to the spot where in 1946 I did a Hayfield and July clouds sketch – Parked car, and spent the rest of the day here – to sundown.
First I spread a blanket on the grassy bank above the road, under some maples and lay flat on my back. Sometimes with my eyes closed, listening to the wind in the branches above & again opening them to delight in the play of sunlight and shadow in the wind-torn leaves. A fine spot with wide views to west & north.
About six, I ate my lunch, in the same spot where I had been lying. Just as I was finishing, an elderly couple came along in a car and stopped. To break the ice I ask if a small vegetable garden (by the road) was theirs – they said no, but they were considering buying the place and had an option on it. We talked awhile & they discussed with me the pros & cons of the spot – (among other things they said the Buffalo Wrecking (sic) Co. would put up a two car garage within 30 miles of Buffalo for $575 – the farm – 50 acres – was $1200 but would require electricity & water to be brought in – then beyond it all would come to $3500 - ). They were from Hamburg & next door neighbors to F. Valentine.
After they were gone, I took a short walk up the road, then south across the farm – found some flat rocks which I gathered. Waiting for the sun to go down, I tuned in on a Canadian station and got Hayden’s Symphony #97 - - Twice two small trains went by in the valley to the west – to the east a row of cumulus clouds catching the level sunlight – their remoteness & mystery suggested a landscape based on “En Saga” by Sibelius.
Home after sundown, listening first to a concert from Vancouver, then to the acceptance speeches of Eisenhower and his running mate – (already I cannot think of it – such is the fate of a V.P.)
Bertha and Peggy upstairs, but still awake – they came down to see what I had done. B thought it “a beauty.” – she seemed worn-out (probably from Peggy’s childish insistent questions). Letter from Art asking for bill-of-sale for his car.
Charles E. Burchfield, July 11, 1952