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Charles Burchfield

Noontide in Late May


Charles Burchfield, Noontide in Late May, 1917  31.408
Charles Burchfield, Noontide in Late May, 1917. Watercolor, gouache, and graphite on paper, 22 × 18 in. (55.9 × 45.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase  31.408 For Teachers
All works by Charles Burchfield are reproduced with permission of the Charles E. Burchfield Foundation

about this work

Like many of his contemporaries, Charles Burchfield viewed nature as a source of revelation. Each season, every time of day, called forth a distinct mood that he wanted to capture and communicate through visionary forms. From late 1916 to early 1918, Burchfield produced an extraordinary group of imaginative watercolors that recalled his childhood fascination with natural forces. Noontide in Late May was one of these works, painted soon after he returned to Ohio from a brief and unhappy sojourn in New York City. Based on a view of his neighbor’s garden in Salem, Ohio, this vivid, exuberant watercolor is more than a record of external fact. His neighbor’s backyard becomes a fantastic landscape of spring blooms, seemingly pulsating with life. Burchfield wrote on the back of this painting in pencil, describing it as “an attempt to interpret a child’s impression of noon-tide in late May—The heat of the sun streaming down & rosebushes making the air drowsy with their perfume.”

Patterson Sims. Charles Burchfield: A Concentration of Works from the Permanent Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Exhibition catalogue. (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1980), 13.

look closer

How would you describe this place?

What would it feel like to be in this place?

What would you hear and smell if you were in this place?

The title of the work is Noontide in Late May. What in the painting suggests that?