Charles Burchfield (1893-1967)
Charles Burchfield was an American painter best known for his watercolor landscapes. He attended the Cleveland School of Art from 1912-1916 and studied with Henry G. Keller, Frank N. Wilcox, and William J. Eastman. In 1921, Burchfield moved to Buffalo, New York, to work as a designer for the prominent wallpaper company, M.H. Birge & Sons Company. Fascinated by Buffalo's streets, harbor, railroad yards, and surrounding countryside, he adopted a more realistic artistic style. Burchfield's foray into realism lasted for several years.
In 1929, the Frank K. M. Rehn Galleries in New York City began representing Burchfield, allowing the artist to resign from his job as a designer to paint full-time. During this period, his works show optimism and an appreciation of American life. In 1930, his work was the subject of a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was also included in the Carnegie Institute’s The 1935 International Exhibition of Paintings, in which his painting The Shed in the Swamp (1933-34) was awarded second prize. Taking note of Burchfield’s rising profile, Life magazine declared him one of America’s ten greatest painters in its 1936 article “Burchfield’s America.”
In the 1940s Burchfield returned to ideas begun in early fantasy scenes that he often expanded into transcendental landscapes. Always probing the mysteries of nature in an attempt to reveal his inner emotions, Burchfield once stated, "An artist must paint not what he sees in nature, but what is there. To do so he must invent symbols, which, if properly used, make his work seem even more real than what is in front of him." He followed this artistic vision until the end of his life, creating some of his most mystical works.
Over the next fifty years there were significant exhibitions featuring his work. His artistic achievement was further honored with the creation of the Charles Burchfield Center at Buffalo State College on December 9, 1966, a month before his death on January 11, 1967.