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Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield

June 24–Oct 17, 2010

Charles Burchfield, An April Mood, 1946–55. Watercolor and charcoal on joined paper, 40 × 54 in. (101.6 × 137.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with partial funds from Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman  55.39.

Charles Burchfield, An April Mood, 1946–55. Watercolor and charcoal on joined paper, 40 × 54 in. (101.6 × 137.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with partial funds from Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman 55.39.

Although he lived next door to Niagara Falls, artist Charles Burchfield (1893–1967) chose to focus his nature-based art on the ground beneath his feet. Curated by artist Robert Gober, this exhibition features over one hundred major watercolors, drawings, oils on canvas, sketches, notebooks, journals, and doodles by this visionary American artist. Acclaimed by critics and known to a broad public audience during his lifetime, Burchfield is curiously under-appreciated today. Working almost exclusively in watercolor, Burchfield’s primary subject was landscape, often focusing on his immediate surroundings: his garden, the views from his windows, snow turning to slush, the sounds of insects and bells and vibrating telephone lines, deep ravines, sudden atmospheric changes, the experience of entering a forest at dusk, to name but a few. He often imbued these subjects with highly expressionistic light, creating at times a clear-eyed depiction of the world and, at other times, a unique mystical and visionary experience of nature.

Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield was organized by the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, in collaboration with the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, New York.

Heat Waves in a Swamp is made possible by The Joy and Jerry Monkarsh Family Foundation.  Major support is provided by the LLWW Foundation and Lynda and Stewart Resnick. 

It is also realized through the generosity of The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, George Freeman, The Straus Family Fund, Rosette Varda Delug, Booth Heritage Foundation, The Fran and Ray Stark Foundation, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, and the Robert Lehman Foundation.

Significant support for the presentation at the Whitney is provided by Carol and Charles Balbach, Aaron I. Fleischman and Lin Lougheed, and William and Rose-Marie Shanahan.

Works from the Exhibtition

Charles Burchfield, The Insect Chorus, 1917. Opaque and transparent watercolor with ink, graphite, and crayon on off-white paper, 20 × 157⁄8 in. (50.8 × 38.1 cm). Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Museum of Art, Utica, New York. Edward W. Root Bequest, 1957.
Charles Burchfield, The Song of the Katydids on an August Morning, 1917. Watercolor, gouache, graphite, colored chalks, and pastel on off-white wove paper, 18 × 21 3/4 in. (45.1 × 55.2 cm). Karen and Kevin Kennedy Collection.
Charles Burchfield, Pyramid of Fire (Pyramid of Flame), 1929. Watercolor on paper, 241⁄2 x 327⁄8 in. (61 × 81.3 cm). The Charles Rand Penney Collection of Works by Charles E. Burchfield at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo State College, 1994.
Charles Burchfield, Black Iron, 1935. Watercolor on paper, 281⁄8 x 40 in. (71.1 × 101.6 cm). Private collection.
Charles Burchfield, End of the Day, 1938. Watercolor on paper, 381⁄4 x 581⁄4 in. (97.1 × 148 cm). The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Joseph E. Temple Fund, 1940.
Charles Burchfield, Two Ravines, 1934–43. Watercolor on paper, 361⁄2 x 611⁄8 in. (92.7 × 155.3 cm). Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Gift of the Benwood Foundation.
Charles Burchfield, Sun and Rocks, 1918–50. Watercolor and gouache on paper, 40 × 56 in. (101.6 × 142.2 cm). Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1953.
Charles Burchfield, Glory of Spring (Radiant Spring), 1950. Watercolor on paper, 401⁄8 x 293⁄4 in. (101.6 × 73.7 cm). Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Corning Clark, 1959.
Charles Burchfield, An April Mood, 1946–55. Watercolor and charcoal on joined paper, 40 × 54 in. (101.6 × 137.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art. Purchase, with partial funds from Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman.
Charles Burchfield, Dawn of Spring, ca. 1960s. Watercolor, charcoal, and white chalk on joined paper mounted on board, 52 × 591⁄2 in. (132.1 × 135.3 cm). DC Moore Gallery, New York.
Charles Burchfield, Dandelion Seed Heads and the Moon, 1961–65. Watercolor, gouache, charcoal, and graffito on lightly textured white wove paper faced on ¼-inch thick laminated gray cardboard, 56 × 395⁄8 in. (142.2 × 99 cm). Karen and Kevin Kennedy Collection.

The book includes drawings from his 1917 sketchbook, Conventions for Abstract Thoughts; watercolors from 1916-18 that were the focus of the first one-person exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, Germany, in 1930; camouflage designs from his tour in the army and wallpaper designs from the 1920s; watercolors from the 1940s showing the artist's unique technique of expanding and reworking earlier works by pasting large strips of paper around them to dramatically increase their size; and finally Burchfield's large, transcendental watercolours from the 1950s and 1960s.

This catalogue is no longer available at the Museum Shop

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