Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), The Evening Star, 1923-26; oil on board, 21 x 27 7/8 inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of Charles Rand Penney, 1994
Charles E. Burchfield, Journals, November 27, 1948
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
To the country on the eastern end of Genesee Road painting - A brisk windy day after the shower with great fleets of compact layer clouds & a brilliant sun.
As I went down the Olean Rd before E.A. I almost regretted coming out. I had forgotten the hunting season was on, and this being Saturday meant many more would be out. Cars were parked everywhere, sometimes in groups of seven or eight, and everywhere on the fields & going into or emerging from woods could be seen hunters in red caps & black & red checkered suits. Noting a dense woods to the right of the R.R. track with what appeared to be a road running alongside it, I turned off to look at it. The “road” proved to be the preliminary grading of the cut-off between Holland & Chaffee. I took a walk southwards—fine wild country; but so many hunters, that I determined to go eastward in the hope of finding a place where there would be none. A vain hope as it proved. East on the Genesee Rd.
At one point I found a “black” pond for which I have been searching—(the water a dark tobacco color—the reflections black). A few ghostly goldenrods in front. A fine subject, but it required a quiet sunless day. A few miles eastward I came to a delightful spot on rolling land & here determined to stay.
On the south side of the road a rise of land, with a few dead weeds & thick growth of saplings, with great sunlit clouds rolling along its top—This I determined to be my subject—But on all sides I saw beautiful material. Wide rolling fields of dead grass to the N.E. with great lavender cloud shadows sweeping across it — To the north a dense woods, and to the N.W. woods & open fields that occasionally was lit up brilliantly by the sunshine.
First I ate my lunch, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Then I set up my easel. The wind was so strong that I had to resort to all sorts of makeshift schemes to combat it. I parked the car diagonally to the road & set the easel in the lee of it—then I opened the big umbrella & fastened it to the car. My easel & paper were secure but the wind caught my head & sides & made painting difficult.
Hardly had I started when the scene to the N.W. seemed desirable & for a few moments I wavered wondering which to do. But I stuck to my original subject.
All afternoon. Hunters kept passing, some in cars some afoot. All complained of the cold. Once a car stopped, two middle aged men in it (one the driver, looking like a certain stern-faced movie actor). He said “Have you a license to do that sort of thing in (?) Country?” “No, I haven’t,” but I thought as long as I didn’t put a deer in it, it would be O.K.”— Altho he did not change his facial expression I would see that he liked my answer. “Would you sell that picture?” Well, not just yet, I have so many things to do to it”— A moment’s silence then “well, I’ve been all over the world & seen lots of things, but I never saw anything like this before, this beats them all” and they drove on.
Late in the afternoon I heard a shot from the woods to the north. Two deer were zigzagging madly across the field in my direction. One more shot but they came up. As they neared me, I saw they were a doe & a fawn. The doe, leading, had a bright red stain on her side & she was obviously in an agony of physical pain & fear. They passed about 20 feet from me. She managed to leap the barbed wire fence altho one leg scraped the wire, & they crossed the road & disappeared over a knoll into a ravine.
I was sick with horror & rage; I felt I would like to beat the hunter with a club; but when he came up & asked what direction they took, I told him & merely said “You’d better find that doe & finish her.” After about five (!) minutes he returned saying he had lost track. “The foxes will get her I guess”—He bragged that he had already gotten 6 deer (two is the legal limit).
The day was spoiled. A beautiful day of wind and sunlight and great sweeping clouds—the poetry was gone.
I drove eastward in the dusk to Pike then returned & parking by the road on a rise of land, I ate my supper. Fine twilight effects in the western sky.
Homeward by 362 & 78 to E. Aurora. Below E.A. stopped a moment to look at the sky—great jagged openings in the clouds, star—studded—
Home, the sketch had good points but did not seem quite right all over. H & M in for a while.
Charles E. Burchfield, November 27, 1948