NARRATOR: In August Evening, Charles Burchfield creates a very specific feeling of time and place.
JAMESWELLING: You can imagine Burchfield coming home from work, having dinner and going outside and painting these sunflowers as the sun is setting, the dark trees in the background of the picture, the sunset sky in the distance, and this semi-mournful mood in the picture.
NARRATOR: Photographer James Welling.
JAMESWELLING: The sunflowers have reached their full height, August is probably turning to September, the seasons are changing.
NARRATOR: This painting is from a period that Burchfield later described as his “golden years”—an enormously productive stretch from 1916 to 1918 when he was working for a machine parts company by day and making vast numbers of watercolors before and after work. He had recently finished art school and returned to his home in Salem, Ohio. In this painting and others he tried to express his childhood memories of nature. His focus on transitional moments—when evening turns to night, or summer to fall—suggests that with beauty comes loss. His watercolors’ intensity comes in part from his approach to his subject, but also his approach to his materials.
JAMESWELLING: I can almost hear Burchfield’s brush on the paper because he’s using very thick, dry pigments to make certain parts of the picture. The lower part is done with more fluid paint but the top part is done with almost thick, opaque watercolor.