America Is Hard to See

Solo en Inglès

This audio guide highlights selected works by artists in America Is Hard to See. Curators, scholars, and artists provide additional commentary.

811Charles Burchfield, Cricket Chorus in the Arbor, 1917


Charles Burchfield (1893-1967), Cricket Chorus in the Arbor, 1917. Transparent and opaque watercolor, brush and ink, and wax crayon on paper mounted on board: 22 1/8 × 18 3/16 × 1/8 in. (56.2 × 46.2 × 0.3 cm); sheet (irregular), 22 1/16 × 17 15/16 in. (56 × 45.6 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Anne and John Straus 2009.203 Reproduced with the permission of the Charles E. Burchfield Foundation

JAMES WELLING: Cricket Chorus seems to depict a hedge or a thick foliage with the sounds of crickets so it must be later in the summer when crickets come out, say in August.

NARRATOR: Photographer James Welling.

JAMES WELLING: It appears to be a sunset image with heavy shadows, deep shadows, and sunlit clouds in the background. Burchfield was extremely interested in representing sound in his work and for him the way to represent sound was through repetitive patterns. So this work starts out probably with a pencil drawing done on location and then the more ornate parts of the foliage, the repetitive patterns done in black watercolor or gouache, for Burchfield seemed to represent the sound patterns that the crickets are making. 

NARRATOR: This painting is from a period that Burchfield later described as his “golden years”—an enormously productive stretch from 1916 to 18 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.