American, (1893-1967)
"Raindrops, May 1917"
watercolor and gouache on paper
signed and dated lower right "C. Burchfield 1917"

watercolor and gouache on paper
20 1/4 x 17 1/8 inches (sight)

  • Provenance: Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York, New York; A Connecticut estate.
  • Exhibited: New York, New York, Kennedy Galleries, Inc., "Charles E. Burchfield: Watercolors from 1915-1920", May 10 - June 10, 1983, cat. no. 29; New York, New York, Kennedy Galleries, Inc., "Charles E. Burchfield: Watercolors from 1915-1920", October 30 - November 17, 1990, cat. no. 18.
  • Literature: Nanette V. Maciejunes, "Strange Phantom Lands", in "Charles Burchfield: Watercolors 1915-1920", (New York: Kennedy Galleries, 1990), exhibition catalog, cat. no. 18 (illustrated).

    Other notes: A copy of the purchase receipt from Kennedy Galleries accompanies the lot.

    We are grateful to Nancy Weekly, Burchfield Scholar, at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, New York for her assistance cataloging this lot. A research report compiled by Nancy Weekly accompanies this lot.

    Framed dimensions: 29 x 25 3/4 x 1 1/2 inches

    Charles Burchfield was born in Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio in 1893. When he was just five years old, his father died and Burchfield moved with his family to Salem, Ohio. In 1916 he was awarded a scholarship to the National Academy of Design in New York City but left after just one day in life-drawing class. The same year he graduated from the Cleveland School of Art and started working at the W. H. Mullins Company, a manufacturer of architectural metals, back in Salem.

    Of his experience in New York, Burchfield historian Joseph Trovato writes, "Even when he went to study at the National Academy of Design, he was seemingly untouched by the contemporary New York art scene. Indeed, he was so homesick for the sights of Salem, Ohio, his childhood home, that he returned there after only two months in New York…It was during his Salem days that he was most productive. From 1915 to 1920 he did almost half of his total number of paintings– the best of which are among the most original achievements in American art."[1]

    Burchfield was raised with his four siblings in a lower-middle-class neighborhood in Salem, Ohio. He would walk home during his lunch breaks from the Mullins Company to work on his watercolors and paint in the evening and on the weekends. Burchfield was a very shy, introverted young man. He drew inspiration from his surroundings, the factories, houses, gardens, churches, and personalities in his community. He would roam the countryside and paint farmhouses in his idiosyncratic style with expressionistic light and bold colors giving the scenes a mythical appearance. He would find the expressive potential of factories and old houses possibly inspired by contemporary Midwestern novelist Sherwood Anderson.

    It was during this time that he painted the present lot, Raindrops, May 1917. Trovato notes that Burchfield believed 1917 was his "golden year" and one of his most productive. Burchfield planned his weekends sketching and annotating ideas on his work breaks. In the summertime, he ventured outside recreating memories of his childhood. He began to experiment visualizing sound and developed his own shorthand of graphic symbols based on natural forms.[2]

    In the Kennedy Galleries exhibition catalog, Nannette V. Maciejunes notes, "For Burchfield, Salem itself was the embodiment of his boyhood. The houses and buildings of his hometown provoked powerful, emotionally charged memories. Increasingly during 1917 the artist turned to these sites for his subjects. Many works like Noon Sunlight in Winter (no. 14) represent views as they appeared from the window of Burchfield's bedroom, where he so often painted. Others, like the expressionistically rendered Raindrops (no. 18), depict sites located along Burchfield's daily route to work."[3]

    In July of 1918 Burchfield was inducted into the Army where he painted camouflage. He was honorably discharged in January of 1919 and then returned to Salem. In November 1921 Burchfield was offered a position in Buffalo, New York. He married and moved to Buffalo in 1922.

    In his spare time, he continued, as before in his native Ohio, to paint the industrial landscape in his surroundings. Seven years later, with the help of New York City dealer Frank Rehn, Burchfield was finally able to devote himself full-time to his art.

    [1] Joseph Trovato, "Charles Burchfield: Catalogue of Paintings in Public and Private Collections," (Utica, NY: Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, 1970), p. 8.
    [2] Joseph Trovato, "Charles Burchfield: Catalogue of Paintings in Public and Private Collections," (Utica, NY: Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, 1970), p. 55.
    [3] Nanette V. Maciejunes, "Strange Phantom Lands", in "Charles Burchfield: Watercolors 1915-1920", exhibition catalog, (New York, New York: Kennedy Galleries, Inc.), cat. no. 18.

    Tags: works on paper, modern / contemporary, Regionalist / Regionalism, Salem, Ohio, listed artist, 20th century
  • Condition: overall very good condition; a few tiny surface accretions in the sky, upper right; additional photos available upon request
    Condition Report Note:
    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. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD “AS IS” IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE. Thank you for your interest in our sale.

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