In the 1920s and 1930s, Burchfield painted scenes that he observed around his home in Gardenville, New York, near the city of Buffalo. He began to receive recognition as an artist and was able to quit his job as a wallpaper designer in 1929. Despite the Great Depression, he could support himself and his family by selling his own work, and he was happy to “no longer get tired in a factory.”
In 1943, as he was turning fifty and as World War II was intensifying, Burchfield went through an artistic crisis. He wasn’t sure how he wanted his art to develop. He started experimenting with watercolors that he had made before, enlarging them by adding pieces of paper where he felt he needed more space for an image and cutting away parts that he thought were no longer necessary. In this way, the smaller works became large watercolors that more fully expressed the beauty and spirit of nature as he saw it. These compositions led to a breakthrough for Burchfield and inspired later works like An April Mood (1946-55).
“It is as difficult to take in all the glory of a dandelion, as it is to take in a mountain, or a thunderstorm.”
“Paint directly—do not fill in outlined patterns.”
As a child, Charles Burchfield was interested in nature and the changing seasons. When he was about fourteen years old, Burchfield began to draw the wild plants and fruit trees of Salem, Ohio, the small country town where he grew up.
Burchfield read a lot, particularly books about the natural world. As a teenager, Burchfield began to keep a journal of writing, drawing, and poetry. He continued to keep journals throughout his adult life.