Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Landscape with Hills and Clouds, Undated; watercolor on paper, 26 x 30 inches; Image from the Burchfield Penney Art Center Archives
Charles Burchfield, Journals, August 28, 1913
Thursday, August 27, 2015
While other phenomena of nature delight us and arouse the poetry in us I do not believe anything quite stirs our imagination as do clouds. I will perhaps exclude trees from this statement and also the wind. But even then both of these are in a way tan¬gible to us, the trees physically, while the winds comes down around us. But the clouds are distant and are ever vanishing and forming. Scientists may explain to us of their structure and formation but it brings them no closer to earth. There are as far away as ever and just as mysterious.
This was a day of clouds.
Beginning with a clear sky and bright sun the morning soon turned into one of dreamy greyness; sky was smeary with solid grey clouds, 78. and the sun barely shone enough to make shadows except of moving objects.
At evening the effect was quite different. Wild-looking clouds, driven by a capricious wind that blew first in one dir-ection and then another. When we came out from work lightning flashed, which was followed by a startling roar of thunder. No storm had as yet formed, we were seeing the formation of one which would probably come to a point at some distance east of us. Far in the west the rose gold of the sky and clouds lit up by the sinking sun was greyed by dense streaks of falling rain.
After supper I sat on the front porch and watched the clouds. Never I believe did I see so many varieties of clouds as I did tonight. There were whispy fragments; long streaky ones; small roly poly round ones, and big ragged tearing clouds that blustered around like some dominating animal. It was interest- 79. ing to note how the vanishing sun colored some clouds and missed others altogether. The effect was often very striking as for example when a dead whitish grey cloud floated in front of a bright yellow mass of clouds.
Oh, it is pleasant with a heart at east,
Just after sunset or by moonlit skies,
To make the shifting clouds what you please,
Or let the easily persuaded eyes
Own each quaint likeness issuing from the mould
Of a friends fancy; or, with head bent low,
And cheek aslant, see rivers flow of gold,
‘Twist crimson banks; and then a traveller go
From mount to mount, through Cloudland, gorgeous land!
Or, listening to the tide with closed sight,
Be that blind Bard, who on the Chian Strand,
By those deep sounds possessed with inward light,
Beheld the Iliad and the Odyssee
Rise to the swelling of the voiceful sea. - Coleridge
Charles Burchfield, August 28, 1913