Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Untitled (House on a Hill), November 4, 1917; watercolor on paper, 17 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches; Image courtesy of the Burchfield Penney Art Center Archives
Charles E. Burchfield, Journals, November 17, 1917
Friday, November 17, 2017
Nov. 17, 1917 -
While out sketching this afternoon I wandered down dilapidated Howard Street – All at once (it was after sundown) I came upon a freak of a house; it had the look of insanity about it. I started to sketch. Presently from within a voice (from an old hag by the sound) commenced to upbraid someone in the most foul crude language – after apparently exhausting her supply for a moment, an old “witch” flew-out of the front-door + up the street, emitting another foul remark. She soon returned with her landlord to whom she again explained, omitting none of the “picturesqueness” of her language. Someone had knocked her down and beat her head on the sidewalk; she brought the landlord out to show him where – the exact spot.
...It was the incident I needed to give me the character of the house. A big black hulk against the pink sky, it now had written on it sin, degeneracy, filth, disease, bestiality + insanity.
Charles E. Burchfield