American, 1893-1967

November Plowing

watercolor on paper
initialed and dated lower left "CEB / 1928"
18 x 33 inches

  • Provenance: Frank K.M. Rehn Galleries, New York, New York; Charles F. Stein, Baltimore, Maryland, acquired from the above, 1929; to his daughter, Private Collection, Baltimore, Maryland; by descent to the present owner, Private Collection, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Exhibited: New York, New York, Montross Gallery, "Exhibition of Recent Paintings by Charles Burchfield", March 26 - April 7, 1928; Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art, "Sixth Exhibition of Watercolors and Pastels", March 23 - April 10, 1929 (label on the reverse); Buffalo, New York, Burchfield Penney Art Center, "Charles E. Burchfield & The American Scene", December 11, 2020 - May 30, 2021.
  • Literature: Joseph S. Trovato, "Charles Burchfield: Catalogue of Paintings in Public and Private Collections", (Utica, New York: Munson Williams Proctor Institute, 1970), p. 131, no. 736.

    Framed dimensions: 23 x 37 x 2 inches

    I will always be an inlander in spirit. The ocean does not lure my imagination. Without discounting its awe-inspiring grandeur, it is not for me, and surely it has a worthy rival in a hay or wheat field on a bright windy day.1

    Raised in Salem, Ohio, Charles Ephraim Burchfield studied painting at the Cleveland School of Art with Henry G. Keller. After his graduation in 1916, the young artist was awarded a scholarship at the prestigious National Academy of Design and moved to New York City in October of the same year. After one day of life class at the Academy Burchfield was convinced to decline their offer; he instead decided to spend the rest of the year sketching independently. He remained in New York long enough to meet Mary Mowbray-Clarke, who organized an exhibition of his watercolors at her Sunwise Turn Bookshop later that year. After his return to Salem at the end of 1916, Burchfield resumed a previous position as an accountant at W. H. Mullins Company, but diligently continued painting.

    In July of 1918, Burchfield was inducted into the US Army. He was attached first to the Field Artillery at Camp Jackson, South Carolina, and later transferred to the camouflage section at the camp, where his artistic talent was put to use creating camouflage designs for uniforms. During his time in the Army, the artist continued to sketch and paint, exploring the various visual motifs, representing fear, melancholy, nostalgia, meditation and other abstract thoughts that he had begun to formulate earlier in 1918 in his notebooks.

    From this point until the 1960s, Burchfield's work evolved in subject matter, palette, style, and psychological impact. His oeuvre can basically be divided into three phases. The first from 1915-1919 features landscapes based upon childhood memories and fantasies, some with a fauvist use of color and others more somber, reflective of his moods and personal feelings. Inspired by Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, the second phase from 1919-1943, exhibits a Social Realist or American Scene theme in the artist's depictions of small-town life and industrial scenes in and around Buffalo.

    With the artist himself citing the need for a diversion from the aftermath of World War II, the third phase from 1943-1967 returns to the subject matter of his childhood. The resulting watercolors are much more expansive in large-scale formats and in portraying a more expressionistic intensity utilizing swirling strokes, heightened colors, and exaggerated forms.

    November Plowing exemplifies the natural scenes beloved to Burchfield throughout his career, depicting a sloping hill located between Gowanda and Cattaraugus, New York. In a journal from 1934, he returns to the area for the first time in several years and notes the striking beauty of the location, recalling his reaction to looking upon the hill once more: "I was filled with emotion as I looked at it, and longed to embrace it – it was mine – mine …"2

    Though the landscape of November Plowing is unusual to Burchfield's work in its depiction of a human figure surrounded by nature, the elements of the rest of the piece are familiar. The eye of the viewer dips through the bowl of the valley and follows the curve of the hill, sweeping up to the sky where murky November clouds threaten the oncoming winter. The combination of earthly beauty and atmospheric phenomena creates a sweeping sense of place, invites appreciation of the pause between seasons, and lets the viewer enjoy the scene just the same as Burchfield himself.

    1 Charles Burchfield, as quoted in John I.H. Baur, The Inlander: Life and Work of Charles Burchfield,1893-1967 (Cranbury, New Jersey: Associated University Presses, Inc., 1982), p. 224
    2 Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Volume 39, Page 36, September 2, 1934; handmade cardboard notebook, 9 5/8 x 11 1/2 inches; Gift of Charles E. Burchfield, 1966

    Tags: works on paper, modern / contemporary, 20th century, Regionalist / Regionalism
  • Condition: in overall very good condition; not examined out of the frame; one small anomaly above the horizon line upper left

    We are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Shannon’s is merely a subjective qualified opinion. Frames on all paintings are sold "As Is". Frames may need some conservation. 

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