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Monday, 10 October 2011

Charles Burchfield: The Insect Chorus (1917-1920)


Trees, 1917

A curious mental depression assailed me, and I worked constantly to keep it down... the pulsating chorus of night insects commenced swelling louder and louder until it resembled the heart beat of the interior of a black closet.

-- Charles Burchfield

The Insect Chorus, 1917, by Charles E. Burchfield

The Insect Chorus, 1917 (Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute, Museum of Art, Utica, New York)

The East Wind - Charles Burchfield, 1918

The East Wind, 1918 (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York)

High-art goblin: The Night Wind, 1918

The Night Wind, 1918 (Museum of Modern Art, New York)

Cat-Eyed House, 1918 (Memorial Art Gallery, U. of Rochester, Rochester, New York)

File:Brooklyn Museum - February Thaw - Charles Burchfield.jpg

February Thaw, 1920 (Brooklyn Museum, New York)

Winter Afternoon
, 1920

Freight Car Dwellings
, 1920

Wheatfields, 1917


TC said...

Some later Burchfields

Ed Baker said...

this painter "speaks" far beyond The Pale !

water colors seamlessly tracking
mind/heart as one.... as they are.

a stretch for me to get to any disectionings
of what "it" is that he has gifted us...

1917-1935 ... one hell of a period in which EVERYTHING
was invented, explored, and taboo-less.

et ceteras in my drifts and East Wind blowing ...

that "tree.... a map of the mind of Big Mind ...
de:pressed !

TC said...


I have no trouble fitting your Jewel in the Lotus (thank you very much, my friend!) in with these early Burchfields in the Museum of Original American Watercolourists of My Imagination. (I think it's that daub of lavender on the cheek.)



Great to see these EARLY Burchfields, then go back (forward?) via your link to those later ones (how he changed, but kept that vision going) w/ poem and comments back and forth to Curtis. . . Meanwhile, the fog is back with a vengeance, rain on the way?


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, house sparrow calling from field
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

letter dated on, appears in
at least thirty works

such as “being is,” for one
thing, and is not yet

grey white of fog reflected in channel,
wingspan of gull flapping toward ridge

TC said...


Drizzle, wet pavements, tire sizzle, here.

Ed Baker said...

hey Tom

all of my "stuff" is via using water-based paints/colors
big pieces are on wood little pieces on paper....
then two coats of polyurethane

I get my paints as missed-matched quarts/gallons from home depot usually a dollar.

some of the pieces here behind me:

a VERY informative article-bio of Charles Burchfield
over on wikipedia....

as for those Art Institutes I went to The Corcoran wayyyyy
back in 1963 went in the front door and walked out the back door
and "never looked back"

I mean
all of the old 'stuff' hanging in them galleries/museums like it-all was each-one of them something sacred !

and you had to be very quiet so the guid could tell everyone in the tour group what they were looking at

and if you got close to a painting the alarm would go off and 6 guards would POUNCE on you !

I just sent that image of "the Jewel in the Lotus"
over to flux use maybe Christine will 'put it up' for all who might be following this-all can see it!

hang in ....

Julia said...

These are watercolours?! I've never seen such powerful ones! The mental depression happens to be shown in the paintings, but it's transformed in a shocking work of art.

Ed Baker said...

Julia, et al
here is a nice review of a Burchfield exhibition
that was exactly 1one year ago:,0,4648618.story

I think his technique was something that since him
is called "dry-brush" water-color painting...

a very little bit of water/or liquid to make the colors paste-like and then put it on the sheets THICK !

you also gotta keep water-colors out of the light
as the colors quickly fade away just like the artists/people do !

I keep my about 2200 on paper water-colors
( mostly 8 1/2 x 11 s) in acid free sleeves inside (49)
three-ring notebooks...

one of the reasons most people don't know or have seen his work(s) is because of the need to keep the light off of them.

of ALL of the water-colorists (n America) I think that Charles Burchfield is rated # 1 !

another thing that stands him apart? he worked
his canvases ("membranes") on an aisle ...

one of the Smithsonian Institution's museums here in D.C. (I think the Museum of American Art) has some of his "things"

... however you may try you just cannot get the "feel" of his
or anyboddhi elses (work) via this Internet

go look at "the real deals' they just might change your life !

you can limit your use of the net to writing term papers then

paint/write how you like and die happy

Ed Baker said...

Et al:

here is Jewel in the Lotus (with a bit of narrative about)
as just put-up of Flux USA:


I recently read some one a "critic" with a PhD in Knowledge who wrote:

"Burchfield is just Hopper in the rain"

Julia said...

This was very interesting (and I am right know reading that review).

TC said...

The 1917 "annus mirabilis" of Burchfield, in which he made the leap from kitsch to an unheralded level of original creation, has a one-off feeling to it, from this distance.

The days of the hermit genius fashioning astonishing visionary inventions out of whole cloth are recalled for us by such rare "phenomena" as Miroslav Tichy or the early Burchfield.

A mixture of timidity and audacity, shyness and disdain for the obvious and conventional, and a complete disregard for attention or "being liked" would be the ingredients to guarantee the purity of the strain.

But of course, such a position would be untenable today, when hiding your light under a bushel will simply get you left in the dark forever.

Ed Baker said...

that next to the last paragraph/thought REALLY
struck this Urban Hermit !
speaking of "light under a bushel"

what I consider my (very) first poem
( Ode to Thomas A. Edison: American Dream, 1970)


'Switch off the lights'

she obeyed

the room closed into the folds of night


not a "great" opening" however, the (event) in the dark was ...

aditya said...

A very moving post Tom. And a very engaging comment thread. Putting Esp. Ed's
( Ode to Thomas A. Edison: American Dream, 1970) which made me laugh out real hard.

Tichy .. Burchfield .. and all you people who remember them like no one else does... sometimes I think the world aint that bad a place.

Anonymous said...

Tremendous post, that elicited likewise comments. Would love to get my eyes on the book Burchfield wrote because it's said he was a real poet in the bok, but it's way too expensive. Have you read it? Thanks for all, Donna

Anonymous said...

woops, may I cross-post this on word pond? Please . . .

TC said...

Donna, if you mean the Journals, yes, the prices are... I suppose "prohibitive" sounds better than "obscene". From c. $250 to c. $650, are the numbers I've seen quoted in a quick search tonight.

However, at a much fairer price (that is, nothing) one may read an interesting interview done late in CB's life (1959).

It's in the Smithsonian Oral Archives of American Art series.

And may be found here.

TC said...

Woops, almost missed your second comment, Donna. Don't know quite what you mean by "cross-posting" (I'm from one of those other centuries). But if what you mean is linking to this post, Sure.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, Tom, you're right — they are the "Journals". You are so kind to provide the link to the interview and you can be sure I will listen to it.

As for cross- posting, in my fragmented way of sorts, I'd forgotten to say that word pond is where I blog, and, yes, again, it means to create a link to your magnificent posting (one of many, I must say, almost each day a new one and always sensually surprising). Thank you, Donna