Night Scene (1929)
From a young age, when he would wander the woods around his Salem, Ohio home, Charles Burchfield harbored a deep love of nature. While a student at the Cleveland School of Art in 1914, he wrote in his journal: “Nature is always new, always fresh, and in this respect it is alone among the aesthetic enjoyments…. [Nature] is rigorously tried every day, every hour and comes forth from each trial victorious and serene” (J. Benjamin Townsend, ed., Charles Burchfield’s Journals: The Poetry of Place, Albany, New York, 1993, pp. 379-380).
20th Century Art: Lot 24
Charles Burchfield Night Scene (1929)
Devoting his career almost exclusively to landscapes in the medium of watercolor, Burchfield’s early work (1915 to the early 1920s) and later paintings (early 1940s to his death) are characterized by fantastical transcendentalism and modernist energy. During the time that Night Scene was created (c. 1929), Burchfield, like many of his American contemporaries, favored a realist rather than whimsical approach to his art. As dusk settles over the prairie in Night Scene, a small city twinkles to life; the orderly flickers of street lamps and house lights contrasts the bulky sweep of blacks and reds in the twilight sky. In a letter to his dealer, Burchfield confided that he preferred to be known as a “romantic-realist,” adding, “It is the romantic side of the real world that I portray. My things are poems—(I hope)” (Letter to Frank K. M. Rehn, October 2, 1940; quoted in John I. H. Baur, The Inlander: life and Work of Charles Burchfield, 1893-1967, Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1982, 1984, p. 152).