Burchfield-Penney Art Center

Rockwell Hall, Buffalo State College

Buffalo, NY

(716) 878-6012


Life Cycles: The Charles E. Burchfield Collection

Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967)

February Day in the City, 1933

Conte crayon on paper, 12 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph E. Connors


A landscape painter, Burchfield rarely depicted humans, yet he expressed human emotions through inanimate objects such as houses and trees. Motifs he used most often include house facades that look like faces, crow-shaped clouds, flame-like tree spirits, and abstracted zig-zagging insects. Equal to the sights and sounds of nature was the influence of music on Burchfield's art, especially the work of Beethoven and Sibelius, two composers also profoundly inspired by the force and rhythms of nature.

Proving to the art world that watercolor was not just for studies or minor works, Burchfield used the medium to create works just as complex and visually compelling as oil paintings. He built up layers of transparent washes to produce depth and opacity usually associated with oils and glazes, rarely leaving sections of the sheet unpainted, as most watercolorists do. His works often shared the large scale of oil paintings, as well.


Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967)

Grain Elevators, 1938

Oil on canvas, 40 x 66 inches

Burchfield-Penney Art Center

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Images and text courtesy of Burchfield-Penney Art Center and The American Federation of Arts.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

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